Newman: “I realized that I am a major league player; I can play up here.”

Young Pirates Short Stop thriving as of late due to his newly established confidence.

Noah Hiles
June 01, 2019 - 6:58 pm

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – The infield has been the center for numerous storylines already this season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. From Josh Bell’s incredible start to Jung Ho Kang’s struggles, there has been no shortage of things to talk about within the diamond. Perhaps one of the best developing stories as the Bucs enter the month of June is the emergence of one of the clubs top prospects, middle infielder Kevin Newman.

This past spring, Newman and newly acquired teammate Erik Gonzalez where under a microscope as they competed for the starting job at shortstop. After struggling in his short time with the big league club during the final months last season, the front office elected to acquire another young player that could potentially fill a void that would exist if Newman was unable to take the next step.

Early on things were not looking great for the Pirates 2015 first round pick. Newman lost his job to Gonzalez in spring training and then had trouble finding consistency both in the field and at the plate when he received playing time. A trip to the injured list on April 11 looked to be seemed to be. Yet another negative moment on what was quickly shaping up to be a tough year for Newman, yet upon his return, the 25 year old rookie has seemingly turned everything around.

Since coming off the injured list on May 4, Newman has been one of the hottest bats in the smoldering Buccos lineup, going 26 for 74 (.351) and hitting safely in each of his last 14 starts. For Newman, while the success might be new, he insists it is simply a product of remaining consistent.

“I’m just trying to be disciplined approach wise and swing wise I haven’t changed anything,” Newman said. “I’ve gotten some more at bats and more reps as of late so that’s always nice and lets you feel a little more comfortable.”

Despite having a tough time throughout his first few months in the majors, Newman says there was one thing that he learned which has allowed him to confidently trust the overall process: the simple fact that he belongs.

“I realized that I am a major league player; I can play up here,” said Newman. “I just tried to get the bad things out of my mind and focus on the positives. The positives were what I told myself that I am a major league player so I came into this year with the mentality that I can play up here and that I need to just keep working hard.”

Although on paper Newman has made drastic improvements offensively, he has perhaps even been better with his glove since rejoining the Bucs. In just a matter of months, Newman went from losing his starting job in spring training, to committing three errors in the same inning against Chicago on April 8, to now being a reliable defender up the middle.

“I’d like to say it is improved,” said Newman when asked about his defense as of late. “I think that through hard work and repetition everything improves. I go out there everyday not to stay the same. I want to work hard and get better every single day so I’d say through all the hard work and all the reps that I have been given, I have improved.”

On top of all the other obstacles listed that could have derailed Newman’s confidence, another that occurred not too long ago was the promotion of young short stop Cole Tucker. Like Newman, Tucker was also a first round pick that the organization has very high hopes for. While it would have been easy for Newman to become frustrated with the hype that surrounded Tucker during his first few weeks in the big leagues, Newman says he essentially felt the exact opposite.

“Cole and I are great friends so when he came up I was super pumped,” said Newman. “It probably did take a little pressure off now that I think about it. He is here helping our team win anyway he can. I just kind of viewed it as what can I do to help the team win in my own shoes. Just focus on my own game and be ready for whatever role I was called upon.”

Newman's most recent contribution has been at the top of the order, giving the Pirates some much needed production in the leadoff spot. In his first game batting leadoff this season, Newman hit his first big league homer, which was a grand slam off of Cincinnati's Lucas Sims. In addition to that, he entered play on Saturday with a 10-game hitting streak. While it is undermined where Newman will go from this point on, one thing is for certain, he is now noticed and for a good reason.