Angels’ Sean Newcomb using spring training as a time to learn
Sean Newcomb sits quietly at his locker in the Angels clubhouse.
Newcomb, the Angels’ first-round pick in last year’s amateur draft, is taking it all in — on and off the field — during major league spring training.
At 21, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound left-hander is the youngest player among nearly 60 in camp.
“It’s exciting just being around all these veterans and the major league guys,” Newcomb said Saturday. “It’s a good experience and I’m picking up some stuff and figuring out how it goes.”
Newcomb’s locker is situated among those of other young players and non-roster invitees. Veterans are across the room.
“It is a little bit nerve-racking being around these guys — kind of like people you grew up watching,” Newcomb said of the older players. “But I’ve been able to relax more and it’s getting easier.”
Newcomb was selected 15th overall in the draft after going 8-2 with a 1.25 earned-run average — and compiling 106 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings — as a junior at the University of Hartford.
He signed for $2.5 million in July, and then pitched three innings in the Arizona Rookie League and 11 1/3 in the Class-A Midwest League.
He threw live batting practice to major leaguers for the first time Thursday.
“In college I was able to throw fastballs, blowing people away,” said Newcomb, who is expected to start the season in Class A. “Now, I’ve got to actually pitch.”
Newcomb said veteran pitchers have been open and helpful, especially C.J. Wilson, a fellow left-hander.
“A guy like Sean comes in — obviously a big prospect, first-round pick, all that stuff — so there’s kind of a tradition, I guess, that you’re supposed to give a guy a really hard time,” Wilson said. “I don’t believe in that.”
Wilson recalled that former major league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. was especially helpful to him when he broke into the major leagues. So making young players feel comfortable enables him to “repay” the favor.
Wilson watched Newcomb in the bullpen and was impressed.
“He seems like he’s got a pretty good idea how to use his body to generate the type of movement he’s going to need to succeed,” Wilson said. “As long as he keeps his health and stays on track, he’ll be fine.”
C.J. Cron did three stints in the minor leagues last season, but still finished with 11 home runs in 253 plate appearances for the Angels.
Now he plans to stay in the majors as a designated hitter and first baseman.
“I’ve prepared as if I’m going to be an everyday player,” he said. “You have to do that until they tell you otherwise.”
When the Angels traded in December for outfielder Matt Joyce, a left-handed bat, General Manager Jerry Dipoto said projected playing time for the right-handed-hitting Cron as the designated hitter would be “significantly” affected.
“It was a great pickup for the team, so I completely understood where it was coming from,” Cron said. “It was a good depth move and it improved our team greatly.”
But with Josh Hamilton coming off surgery and also awaiting possible punishment from Major League Baseball for a substance-abuse relapse, Joyce appears on track to start in the outfield.
That would open opportunity for Cron.
The experience Cron gained last season will help him in 2015, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
“When he gets a pitch,” Scioscia said, “he can break open a game.”
Scioscia on Hamilton
Scioscia said he and most players had texted Hamilton.
“Naturally, it’s a tough time for Josh,” Scioscia said. “There are going to be natural things he’s got to work through, and I think we’re all just waiting to see what the next step is.”
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