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No surprise: Sean Newcomb makes Braves rotation

Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb delivers a pitch working with the catchers on Friday, Feb 16, 2018, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb delivers a pitch working with the catchers on Friday, Feb 16, 2018, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Sean Newcomb will begin the season in the Braves’ rotation.

Newcomb pitched 4 2/3 innings Saturday, walking three and striking out three, in the Braves’ 3-0 loss to the Cardinals. He was charged with one earned run after reliever Shane Carle threw two wild pitches that permitted Newcomb’s remaining base runner to score.

He was coming off a start in which he retired 14 consecutive batters. Newcomb has collected a 2.35 ERA in five spring starts.

“Amazing where he’s at to me right now from where he was a year ago,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “How much improvement that guy’s made. The confidence, his mound presence, the competitiveness, the whole thing from a year ago today. It’s so much better.”

The scored run was the fourth Newcomb had allowed. The previous three came on home runs.

“One of those starts where I didn’t have my best stuff,” Newcomb said. “But I was able to kind of battle, put up some zeros there for a bit. When I got in some trouble I was able to make some pitches and get out of it. I fell behind guys, put myself in a bad situation. So I was able to get out of some of those, take some positives from that.”

Newcomb departed after walking two in the fifth. That brought his spring total to five walks against 15 strikeouts.

“I guess I got a little tired,” Newcomb said about the inning.

“I don’t know if he was as sharp as he was the time before, but he was OK,” Snitker said. “We put him in a couple tough spots (with errors) that ran his pitch count up.”

Newcomb has tried to be more aggressive, aware that walks were the chief issue of an up-and-down rookie season. He completed his first season in the bigs with a 4-9 record, 4.32 ERA, 108 strikeouts and 57 walks in 100 innings.

This spring, Newcomb has pitched 15 1/3 innings. He’ll get one or two more starts before opening day.

“I wasn’t too pleased with how today went with the few walks,” Newcomb said. “But I just chalk it up to not having my best stuff. As a whole, I think it’s been going well so far. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Newcomb came into camp saying a rotation spot was his to lose. The Braves have seen enough to feel comfortable with him in the initial rotation, be it four or five-man unit.

“He’s pitched his way on,” Snitker said. “He’s done a really good job.”