Newman Pushes For Starting Spot

1st round pick feels added strength is key

Jeff Hathhorn
March 15, 2019 - 5:35 pm

93.7 the Fan

BRADENTON, FL (93.7 the Fan) – It was a double that knocked Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta out of the game Thursday that may have finally demonstrated the hard work Kevin Newman put in this off-season.

Battling with Erik Gonzalez to be the Pirates starting shortstop this season, Newman had three hits and a homer against the Phillies to lift his average to .269 and now has five RBI, which is third on the team. 

The 25-year-old Newman said he put on 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season to prepare.  How did he do it?

“Lift a lot and eat a lot”

“The home run I hit (on Thursday), I don’t think that ball goes out last year because of how drained I was and how light I was,” Newman said.  “I wasn’t trying to do anything crazy, wasn’t trying to hit a home run.  A ball like that goes out and it shows a lot of the off-season work.”

Newman hit .209 in 31 games with the Pirates when he was called up late last season.  Of the 15 hits he got, only twi were for extra bases and those were doubles, leading to a .231 slugging percentage.

“He poured everything he had into the Triple A season and then he gets called up to the big leagues and there may have been some fatigue,” said manager Clint Hurdle.  “A young man who was worn down a little bit.  He spent the winter intentionally working to get stronger and put on some muscle.  We are starting to see it translate on the field as well.”

Hurdle said the adversity he dealt with last year, could be beneficial for this year.

Newman said he’s learned to be more aggressive while simplifying his move at the plate.

“After a day like (Thursday) do I take this day and think ‘oh I’m good’.  No, by no means,” Newman said.  “I’m going to come to the yard, ready to play the next game and try to build off of it.  Continue to work.  Continue to get better in every aspect.”

The former first round pick in 2015 out of the University of Arizona, Newman also believes the lifting in the off-season benefitted his defense. 

“I feel good defensively,” Newman said.  “I put a lot of hard work in the offseason, came in and continued to hammer backhands in the hole.  Just a lot of areas of my defensive game and they’ve shown up and I’ve been happy with the results.”

“I continue to watch his work early and he’s been simplistic in his work,” Hurdle said.  “He’s been focused in that work.  That’s the cool part is to see it transfer in a game.  That just gives more concrete evidence that he might be hunting the good stuff.”

It’s Newman’s first opportunity to be a starting major league shortstop as he battles with Erik Gonzalez, who the Pirates acquired in a trade and GM Neal Huntington has praised his potential.  So how is the California native dealing with a potential life-altering position battle?

“I really don’t think about it very often,” Newman said.  “I get that a lot from reporters, friends, family.  For me Spring Training is just Spring Training, I come in with the same mentality as I had last year and the year before and that’s just to come in and get better and get ready for the season.  Ultimately, I’m going to go out there and do everything I can and play as hard as I can, like I always do, and whatever happens after that, happens.”