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Growing pains emerge as Newcomb faces best

After impressing in first 4 starts, Braves prospect has learned lessons vs. Astros, Nats, Cubs
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- As encouraging as Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb was during the first four starts of his career, there was certainly reason to anticipate he would eventually experience the inevitable growing pains that he felt once again during Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to the Cubs at SunTrust Park.

"All you can do is learn from it and keep moving forward while trusting my stuff," Newcomb said. "I know if I keep moving forward, I know I can get people out with any of my pitches. ... I think I just need to slow it down and keep doing what I was doing when I got here and just keep attacking."

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ATLANTA -- As encouraging as Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb was during the first four starts of his career, there was certainly reason to anticipate he would eventually experience the inevitable growing pains that he felt once again during Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to the Cubs at SunTrust Park.

"All you can do is learn from it and keep moving forward while trusting my stuff," Newcomb said. "I know if I keep moving forward, I know I can get people out with any of my pitches. ... I think I just need to slow it down and keep doing what I was doing when I got here and just keep attacking."

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Given a chance to get his feet wet against the Mets, Marlins, Giants and Padres in his first four starts, Newcomb exited that stretch of outings with a sparkling 1.48 ERA. His instant success validated his lofty prospect status. MLBPipeline ranks him as the game's 67th-best overall prospect and the fifth-best prospect within Atlanta's system.

Video: CHC@ATL: Newcomb gets Russell swinging in the 2nd

But the challenge of pitching in the big leagues has been enhanced as the 24-year-old has produced an 11.37 ERA while facing the Astros, Nationals and Cubs within the first three starts he has made this month.

Primarily a fastball and curveball pitcher, Newcomb has been reminded of the need to better refine some of his secondary pitches while facing the game's two top offenses and the defending World Series champions.

"That's a good experience for him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's fine. He's a young pitcher, trying to learn on the job."

Video: CHC@ATL: Snitker on tough outing for Newcomb

As Newcomb issued two walks or fewer in three of his four June starts, he quieted concerns about the control issues that plagued him in the Minors. But he issued four walks against the Nationals on July 9 and then issued three more on Tuesday, including two costly ones during the decisive four-run third inning.

After allowing Javier Baez to begin the third with a home run, Newcomb issued consecutive one-out walks to Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant within a sequence of 13 pitches, none of which hit the strike zone. He paid the price two batters later when Willson Contreras drilled a decisive three-run homer over the center-field wall.

Video: CHC@ATL: Contreras mashes a three-run shot to center

"He wasn't as sharp as he's been, and secondary stuff wasn't really there," Snitker said. "That's going to happen."

Newcomb passed the challenge presented to him when he surrendered three straight singles to load the bases before recording an out in the sixth inning. Given the chance to remain in the game, he responded by ending his outing with a strikeout of left-handed pinch hitter Jon Jay.

"He struggled with his command a little bit, but still it didn't get completely out of range," Snitker said. "I think he kind of gathered up and made some big pitches at times. It could have gotten way out of hand, but he battled his way through and didn't let it happen."

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

Atlanta Braves, Sean Newcomb