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Braves eye 9 straight in Newcomb's spot start

Lefty likely to return to bullpen when Keuchel joins Braves
@mlbbowman
June 15, 2019

ATLANTA -- While Dallas Keuchel is completing what will likely be his final Minor League start on Saturday, Sean Newcomb will be looking to make the most out of what could just be a spot start. Newcomb has looked like a completely different pitcher since he transitioned to the bullpen

ATLANTA -- While Dallas Keuchel is completing what will likely be his final Minor League start on Saturday, Sean Newcomb will be looking to make the most out of what could just be a spot start.

Newcomb has looked like a completely different pitcher since he transitioned to the bullpen after returning from a nearly month-long demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. The 6-foot-5 southpaw will get another chance to prove his worth as a starter when he takes the mound on Saturday night against the Phillies looking to lead the Braves to a ninth straight win.

First pitch on Saturday is set for 7:20 p.m. ET and can be seen for free on MLB.TV.

“I’m looking to take the rhythm I’ve been in and just keep rolling,” Newcomb said. “I’m not looking at it as a start or that I’m coming out of the 'pen. It’s just another time out there.”

Even if Newcomb has a successful start, there’s a couple reasons to anticipate his return to a starting role will be very brief. He is taking the spot in the Braves' rotation that is reserved for Keuchel, who will pitch Game 1 of Double-A Mississippi’s doubleheader on Saturday before likely making his debut for Atlanta next Friday on the road against the Nationals.

The Braves are also well aware of the fact Newcomb has stabilized their bullpen while producing a 1.42 ERA and issuing just two walks over 19 innings as a reliever. The 24-year-old hurler showed promise as a starter last year, faltered over the final two months and then was sent back to the Minors when control was again an issue after his first three starts this season.

Newcomb produced a Major League-high 11.6 percent walk rate in 2018 and then issued eight walks in 12 1/3 innings as a starter this year. His recent success has been attributed to a more aggressive approach with both his fastball and curveball.

During this year’s three starts, Newcomb recorded a strike with 23.8 percent of the curveballs he threw and 64.1 percent of his four-seam fastballs. As a reliever, his strike percentage with his curveball was 74.2 percent and 50.7 percent with his four-seamer.

“He should have some confidence,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The stint in the bullpen has been very good for him.”

Newcomb will need to extend his recent efficiency on Saturday, because the Braves will likely limit his pitch count. Before throwing 55 pitches over 4 2/3 innings of relief on Monday, the lefty had not completed at least two innings since a 29-pitch appearance on May 6.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.