ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Newcomb still thinks of himself as a young pitcher.
Some of his new Braves teammates see Newcomb as a veteran with all the answers. That puts a different kind of pressure on the left-hander as he enters his third season.
Newcomb did not walk a batter in four innings and Pedro Florimon hit a ninth-inning grand slam off Jimmy Herget to lift Atlanta over the Cincinnati Reds 7-5 Tuesday in the last exhibition game for each team.
Among healthy starters, the 25-year-old Newcomb trails only Julio Teheran in seniority in a rotation that includes rookies Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson.
“I would be younger on some other teams but here I’m kind of stuck in the middle, kind of knowing all those younger guys but also having been here for a couple years,” Newcomb said. “They kind of come to me for a lot of questions because it’s a little more comfortable for them.”
Mike Foltynewicz, a 2018 All-Star expected to be the team’s top starter, is recovering from a sore elbow. Kevin Gausman may recover from a sore shoulder in time to pitch in the Braves’ first home series next week. Max Fried, a 2018 rookie, is the probable No. 5 starter.
Newcomb was 12-9 with a 3.90 ERA last season. The left-hander faded after compiling a 2.59 ERA in his first 15 starts.
A key to Newcomb’s hopes of improved consistency is better control. He walked 15 batters in his first 17 innings this spring training but avoiding walks helped him give up only two runs on three hits to the Reds.
“I threw more strikes,” he said. ”... I’m healthy, I’m feeling strong, my fastball is in a good spot and today my off-speed was in a good spot, too.”
Newcomb is scheduled to start Atlanta’s home opener against the Cubs on Monday. Teheran, Wilson and Wright will start in the opening series against Philadelphia this week.
Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani allowed two hits and one walk in four scoreless innings. Wright gave up three runs and five hits in four innings.
Kyle Farmer hit a two-run homer off Newcomb in the third inning. Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer off Zach Duke in the fifth.
Reds OF Nick Senzel sprained his right ankle while sliding into second base in a minor league game on Monday night. Senzel will be in a walking boot for at least one week and will be out for “weeks after that,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. Williams added the injury doesn’t affect plans for Senzel to play center field, instead of second base, “but it affects the time frame.” Senzel, the team’s top prospect, was sent to the minors on Friday.
Farmer was demoted to the minors on Friday and recalled on Saturday after Scooter Gennett sustained a severe groin strain that will force him to miss the opening months of the season.
Farmer started at shortstop and has played at catcher, first base and third base in his career.
“He’s shown a lot,” said Reds manager David Bell. “The fact he can catch and play shortstop, he can probably play all nine positions. ... He can hit, too. He’s going to be a big part of our team.”
Reds RHP Matt Wisler was reassigned to the minors and is expected to be designated for assignment. Bell said Wisler, who began his career with the Braves, “did everything he could to make the team” but lost out to RHP Robert Stephenson in the competition for a spot in the bullpen. “We like where he is, we believe in him,” Bell said of Stephenson. Bell said he didn’t want to define Stephenson’s bullpen role.
Reds: RHP Luis Castillo will start when the Reds open at home against Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Braves: Teheran will make his sixth straight opening day start when Atlanta faces the Phillies and RHP Aaron Nola on Thursday.
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