Former Arizona star Kevin Newman brings “stability” to the D-backs

Ezra Amacher Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX – Kevin Newman found himself at a crossroads briefly this spring.

A few days before the start of the Major League Baseball season, the Arizona Diamondbacks informed Newman that he would not be included in the Opening Day roster.

Newman, who signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent in the offseason, decided to opt out of his contract to see what opportunities there were in the league.

The University of Arizona product and former first-round draft pick quickly realized his options were limited. One day after being released from his contract, the 30-year-old shortstop re-signed with the D-backs, this time for a minor league deal.

“I weighed all my options and just thought this was a good place for me with what I bring and what the Diamondbacks might need,” Newman said at a recent home game.

People also read…

The decision paid off for both player and team.

When Newman packed his bags and headed to Reno in late March to play for the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate, he couldn't have predicted how much or how quickly the organization would need his skills as an infielder.

Just a week into the MLB season, Arizona All-Star shortstop Geraldo Perdomo injured his knee and had to undergo meniscus surgery. Newman was called up to the major leagues on April 7, just a week and a half after initially opting out of his contract with the D-backs.

“You hate to see someone get injured, but to be able to step in and help the team and contribute, I think that was definitely a great decision for me and for the team in that regard,” Newman said.

D-backs shortstop Kevin Newman throws to first base in a game against Baltimore on May 10. “Being here is a little more comfortable,” Newman said of his return to the West. “I have family in Arizona and still have family in San Diego. We're all in this area, it's really nice.”

Nick Wass, Associated Press

Over the next two months, Newman became the Diamondbacks' reliable starter at shortstop. When the defending National League champions struggled offensively, Newman was a bright spot in the lineup, posting a .312 batting average in May.

Newman also gave the team a reliable defender in the infield.

“Kevin Newman has been unbelievable for this ballclub,” D-backs manager Torey Luvullo said. Newman did his best to impress the organization during spring training, Luvullo said, but never got into the rhythm he did during his time as the Diamondbacks' shortstop.

Newman came to Arizona this spring after a one-year stint in Cincinnati, where he appeared in 74 games and posted a .253 batting average with 28 RBIs.

In 53 plate appearances this year, Newman has nearly as many hits (47) as he will have with the Reds in all of 2023 (57). He has a .290 batting average at Arizona, and Newman attributes his improvement at the plate to working with Diamondbacks coaches on changing his swing direction.

“I try to keep it simple,” Newman said. “I do my work in the cage and then when the game starts, I try to clear my head and not do too much.”

Kevin Newman talks with umpire John Libka (left) about a strike during a game on May 26.

Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Newman's geographic familiarity also helped him clear his head. Newman played three seasons at Arizona (2013-15), making the Pac-12 All-Conference team each year.

The Poway, California native was selected 19th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Pirates before joining the Reds last season.

Newman, who spends the offseason with his wife and children in the Phoenix area, was ready to return west.

“It's a little more comfortable being here,” Newman said. “I have family in Arizona and I still have family in San Diego. We're all in this area, it's really nice.”

In the Diamondbacks' locker room, Newman has another former Wildcat to call upon: reliever Kevin Ginkel. Although the two Kevins each missed a year in Tucson to play for the UA, they have grown closer this season, a result of their time in Tucson and their pasts as former top prep players from the San Diego area.

“I feel like he provides stability,” Ginkel said. “From a defensive standpoint, he's solid on the field. I know that when balls are hit to him, he's going to make good plays. I also feel like on offense, he's not afraid to go the other way with a line drive or move a player.”

Newman's abilities as an all-around infielder are valued by club management, as evidenced by the club's decision to keep him on the roster after Perdomo returned from injury in early June.

Since Perdomo's return, Newman has started four times at shortstop, including in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Washington Nationals, where he delivered an RBI single.

Newman is still fighting to keep his spot on the team, competing alongside rookie infielder Blaze Alexander and underperforming third baseman Eugenio Suarez. The D-backs are expected to call up outfielder Alek Thomas in the next week, and when they do, one of Newman, Alexander or Suarez will likely be taken off the roster.

Right now, Newman is taking advantage of this opportunity game by game.

Willie Mays, Hall of Famer and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, has died.

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *