Newcomb showing early returns in bullpen

Markakis takes part in Hooton advisory board; Riley off to historic start

May 19th, 2019

ATLANTA -- Though the results have been very impressive, it might be a tad too early to know whether will continue to be a valuable asset in Atlanta’s bullpen.

But it’s apparent the Braves were successful in their attempt to send a message by sending Newcomb to the Minors after he struggled in two of his first three starts of the season.

“Getting sent down lit a fire under me,” Newcomb said. “Going out to the 'pen, you’re only going out there for short spurts.”

Newcomb has certainly assumed the appearance of a much more aggressive competitor, as he has worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings since being moved to the bullpen after being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier this month. He hasn’t issued a walk, and in the process, he has distanced himself from the career-long command issues that were extended when he issued eight walks in 12 1/3 innings as a starter this year.

“He’s pounding the zone with his heater,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “He is coming after guys. It’s kind of like how [Brewers reliever Josh Hader] pitches. His fastball is kind of middle to middle up. When you throw 95-96, it’s kind of hard to catch up to those things."

Now assigned to pitch just an inning or two at a time, Newcomb’s four-seamer has averaged 94.5 mph during his relief appearances. More importantly, he’s recorded a strike 76.1 percent of the time with this pitch. As a starter this year, his four-seamer averaged 92.9 mph and resulted in a strike 64.1 percent of the time.

But the biggest improvement has been seen with the curveball, which accounted for a strike just 23.8 percent of the time during Newcomb’s starts this year. His strike percentage with this pitch as a reliever has been 62.1 percent (18 of 29).

Markakis part of Hooton Foundation's record group
has once again been chosen to serve as the Braves’ representative on the advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which encourages young players to avoid using performance-enhancing drugs.

“These kids look up to us," Markakis said. "When you've constantly got guys getting busted, it's going to be national news, and these kids are going to see it. We've got to set as good of an example as we can and be good in that aspect of this game. It's always a touchy subject. But ultimately, we play this game for the fans and the kids. We want to set good examples."

Major League Baseball has endorsed the Taylor Hooton Foundation Advisory Board since 2014. The players who are members partake in public service campaigns and participate in educational activities throughout their communities.

Historic start
’s go-ahead home run in the sixth inning of Saturday night’s win over the Brewers made him the first player in Atlanta history to record at least eight hits through the first four games of a career. He is the sixth Braves player to do this within the past 111 seasons, and the first since Mack Jones in 1961.