SAN DIEGO -- When Sean Newcomb made his Major League debut earlier this month, Braves manager Brian Snitker playfully said the impressive prospect might have spent this season's first two months "in the wrong league."Three starts later, Newcomb has done nothing to weaken the belief he belongs at the big
SAN DIEGO -- When Sean Newcomb made his Major League debut earlier this month, Braves manager Brian Snitker playfully said the impressive prospect might have spent this season's first two months "in the wrong league."
Three starts later, Newcomb has done nothing to weaken the belief he belongs at the big league level and has the capability to be a legitimate front-line starter in Atlanta for many years to come. The 24-year-old southpaw found himself with a sparkling 1.48 ERA and his first career win after he recorded eight strikeouts and completed six-plus scoreless innings in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Padres at Petco Park.
Newcomb now stands as the only player in Atlanta Braves history (since 1966) to begin a career with four consecutive quality starts.
"Every outing he's had has been so encouraging and positive," Snitker said. "It's really nice to see."
Newcomb ranked as one of MLBPipeline.com's top 20 overall prospects, when the Braves acquired him in the November 2015 trade that sent Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. His inconsistent command and alarming walk rates weakened his stock last year and he now ranks No. 68 on this list of the game's top prospects.
Given that Newcomb had issued 5.2 walks per nine innings over 11 starts for Triple-A Gwinnett this season, there was reason to be concerned about how he might fare in the Majors. But he's quieted the skeptics as he has issued two or fewer walks in three of his four starts. He has recorded a strike with 69 percent of the 385 pitches he has thrown.
"I'm just competing with every single pitch, rather than taking some of them off, like maybe I did in the past," Newcomb said. "I feel pretty good about it."
Blessed with a solid 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame, Newcomb can dazzle with his knee-buckling curveball. But much of his early success can be attributed to his consistent fastball command. He recorded 21 called strikes with his fastball on Tuesday. That was nine more than he had notched during any of his previous three starts.
"He's been impressive for us," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "Just watching him pitch from center field, it has been nasty. He's been really sharp and it's great for us."
Still soft-spoken and relatively shy at this stage of his career, Newcomb has provided a glimpse of his intense competitive nature when he has encountered tense situations while on the mound. Opponents are just 2-for-17 against him with runners in scoring position.
"It's a quiet kind of competitiveness that he has in those situations," Snitker said. "It's been refreshing to see from the get-go."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.