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Promotion of top Angels pitching prospect Sean Newcomb possible, but unlikely

Promotion of top Angels pitching prospect Sean Newcomb possible, but unlikely
Angels prospectSean Newcombdelivers a pitch against the Royals during a spring training game on March 8. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images)

Manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels have discussed the possibility of calling up top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb and using him as a reliever when rosters expand in September, but Newcomb's inability to command the strike zone consistently makes such a move unlikely.

Newcomb, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound left-hander who has been compared to Jon Lester, is 8-1 with a 2.17 earned-run average in 23 starts for three teams -- Class-A Burlington (Iowa) and Inland Empire and double-A Arkansas -- this season.

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A first-round pick and 15th overall selection out of the University of Hartford in 2014, Newcomb has struck out 144 and walked 64 in 116 innings, an average of five walks per nine innings. He has 15 strikeouts and 12 walks in 16 innings at Arkansas, an average of 6.8 walks per nine innings.

"No decision has been made, but we'll see," Scioscia said before Friday night's game against the Kansas City Royals in Kauffman Stadium. "You definitely have to balance a young pitcher's development with their ability to help you win some games if you need them."

Newcomb, 22, has already thrown more innings this season than he ever has, and if he makes at least four more starts, he will be pushing 140 innings. He's also never pitched in relief, a role some starters have difficulty adjusting to.

"It would obviously take some circumstances for him to come in and fill in there, but you're going to balance the ability to pitch out of the bullpen, which we don't know, with possibly of putting him at risk that you don't want him to have," Scioscia said.

"I think there will be a plan of action for Sean when the season's over to keep him pitching somewhere in case that is needed at some point, but there's been no decision on if he's going to come up here and pitch in our bullpen. There's more to it than saying, 'Of course he's going to come up here and pitch,' or definitely not. There's a lot to look into."

David Price set the benchmark for such moves when he went from being the first overall pick out of Vanderbilt University in 2007 to playing a key late-inning role with the Tampa Bay Rays on their run to the World Series in 2008 after he was promoted to the big leagues that September. But Price was much more polished at that point in his career than Newcomb is now.

"David Price was a little different in his development than Sean is now," Scioscia said. "Price was throwing the ball with terrific command, even in the minor leagues, and that led Tampa to be really comfortable that he could come up and find a role in the bullpen. Sean's still developing. When he's ready, he'll be ready."

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