680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Baseball is a game of opportunity. Sean Newcomb, for the better part of the last year has made it well known he would love another shot at being used as a starter once again. After just four disappointing starts at the beginning of the 2019 season, Newcomb was moved to a relief role where he was used 51 times out of the Atlanta bullpen. However, his return to the rotation wasn’t as most fans had hoped last night at Citi Field. Newcomb really struggled with his fastball command, especially in the first two innings. In addition, his curveball location wasn’t as sharp as we’re used to seeing either as he hit a pair of batters in the bottom of the first inning.
The question now becomes, how short is the leash on Newcomb if we see a repeat performance in his next time out against the Mets at Truist Park? You’ll recall, the Braves pulled the trigger after just four starts in 2019 that saw Newcomb walk 10 batters as opposed to 8 strikeouts to start the season. That said, he was much more on the attack, much more aggressive and able to air it out from the very first pitch, knowing he would only likely be called on for an inning or perhaps slightly more in most outings. But, with Cole Hamels injured and Felix Hernandez opting out, the Braves need Newk to step up in the middle of this rotation. There’s still questions surrounding Mike Foltynewicz who goes in tonight’s series opener in Tampa when it comes to his decreased velocity in his final tune-up against the Marlins last week. And with Kyle Wright starting tomorrow, the third fourth and fifth spots in the Atlanta rotation are currently filled with much more questions than answers.
With Touki Toussaint making serious strides this spring and veterans like Josh Tomlin and Jhoulys Chacin also in the mix, the leash on Newcomb could be even shorter than it was to start the 2019 season. Chacin certainly deserves a tip of the cap for the effort he put forth in last night’s lopsided win, throwing 30 fewer pitches than Newcomb, while recording an additional out over three and two thirds scoreless frames.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.