Newcomb to make highly anticipated MLB debut with start Saturday

The day before Sean Newcomb was dropped from the Braves’ major league spring training roster and sent to minor league camp, the big left-hander struck out four and allowed just one hit and no walks in two scoreless innings of a Grapefruit League game against the Phillies.

Legendary former Braves manager and Hall of Famer Bobby Cox came out of the clubhouse that day smiling after the game and said Newcomb’s performance had made the whole day worthwhile.

“His last start before we sent him down,” Braves manager Brian Snitker recalled Tuesday. “It was kind of like, ‘This is what everybody’s talking about.’”

Snitker and most Braves will see Newcomb for the first time since then when the hard-throwing prospect makes his highly anticipated major league debut with a start against the New York Mets in a day-night doubleheader Saturday at SunTrust Park.

Newcomb was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday at Triple-A Gwinnett so he could be ready to pitch Saturday for the big league team. Matt Wisler will also be brought up from Triple-A to start the other game of the doubleheader, which has separate admission and start times of 1:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m.

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The Braves needed to bring up two starters for that game after placing struggling veteran Bartolo Colon on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday.

“It’s exciting to watch young guys, how they respond,” Snitker said of Newcomb’s arrival. “Any of them, any young player you bring up. When I was managing Triple-A they’d call us, ‘Is this guy ready?’”

Snitker said his response always came with a caveat: “Position player or pitcher, it didn’t matter — he’s done well here, you put that third deck up there (different in a minor league and major league ballpark) you just never know. Like any of them, he’s getting better. The more you play them, the better they get.”

Newcomb will be added to the Braves’ 40-man roster, which had two openings. A move will be made to open a spot for him on the 25-man major league roster before Saturday.

Wisler will not require a corresponding roster move since he will serve as the “26th man” addition allowed by major league baseball for teams in a scheduled doubleheader.

Newcomb, who turns 24 on Monday, is 3-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 11 starts at Gwinnett and has an impressive 74 strikeouts and 33 walks in 54 2/3 innings. The walks continue to be an issue and a big reason he has not pitched deep into games, but he’s allowed just three home runs and has been dominant at times including an 11-strikeout, one-hit, two-walk, seven-inning performance April 30 in his fourth start.

He had at least five strikeouts in every start at Gwinnett, but also had three or more walks in seven of 11 starts.

A first-round draft selection — 15th pick — in 2014 by the Angels, Newcomb was traded to the Braves in the November 2015 deal that sent Platinum Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to Anaheim.

Newcomb has shown flashes, both at spring training and in Triple-A, of the big potential that made him one of the top 25 prospects in baseball before the 2016 season. His status slipped after an erratic 2016 season, but he still was ranked as high as No. 44 by Baseball Prospectus entering this season.

The prospect status becomes less important now than what he does in his first big opportunity.

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