Ljay Newsome keeps things pretty simple when it comes to his life and baseball: Listen more than you talk, never let anyone outwork you, stay emotionally in control and above all else — throw strikes.
So when arm fatigue forced Mariners starting pitcher Nick Margevicius to exit Sunday’s game while facing Chas McCormick, the first batter of the fifth inning, Newsome was asked to enter the game, go through his complete warmup without a limit on the stadium mound with 8,959 fans watching and try to keep the Mariners in what was a 1-1 game.
After Margevicius threw four pitches, three of them balls, with no control and decreased velocity, Mariners manager Scott Servais immediately went to the mound with an athletic trainer. As the conversation started, Newsome was notified by bullpen coach Trent Blank to get ready.
“I grabbed my weighted balls and started throwing them and I got a couple of throws in before I had to go out there,” Newsome said.
When Servais made the signal for a new pitcher, Newsome started to go to the bullpen mound to warm up. But he was told that he had to warm up on the field. By MLB rules, when a pitcher exits a game with an injury, his replacement has as long as needed to warm up.
“It felt very different,” he said. “I just took my time. Basically on the game mound, I got my couple throws with little crow hops in there and then just took my time out there, the same as I would as a start or in the bullpen.”
Newsome’s first pitch was a ball to McCormick, which was a walk that was charged to Margevicius. The Astros would piece together a run as McCormick stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball to right and scored on another fly ball to right field, which was also charged to Margevicius. Newsome eventually escaped that inning, which was also prolonged by Kyle Seager’s second error of the game and catcher’s interference from Tom Murphy, without allowing further damage.
But his teammates erased that one-run deficit, scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Given a 5-2 lead, Newsome worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning, which allowed him to get his first major-league win.
“He has the absolute perfect mindset for the role that he has for us,” Servais said. “Nothing really fazes Ljay. He is who he is. He is going to do what he does. He’s going to throw fastballs up in the zone, he’s going to get that little breaking ball going. He is always going to throw strikes. And he’s always going be ready to pitch and he can pitch every day. He’s just one of those guys. So he fits great with us.”
For milestones or firsts in a player’s career, the Mariners traditionally have a postgame beer-shower celebration. Only they don’t dump just beer. It’s any liquid or substance within reach. Ketchup, mayonnaise, soda, shaving cream, baby powder, toothpaste and beer is doused on the player as teammates cheer. But right before, the player usually says a few words.
Newsome, who has been dubbed the quiet assassin by Servais for his quiet nature and reluctance to say more than is needed, said about two words.
It was probably, “Thank you.”
“He’s a man of few words,” Ty France said with a smile. “We’ve had a few conversations, but not too many.”
Selected in the 26th round of the 2015 draft out of Chopticon High in Morganza, Maryland, Newsome has been an organizational grinder, working his way up each rung, often spending multiple seasons at each affiliate. Blessed with outstanding command but without an overpowering fastball, he’s never been viewed as much more than long reliever/spot starter and Triple-A depth. While he has managed to add a few ticks on his fastball, his ability to throw strikes has elevated him in the eyes of the current Mariners regime and its “dominate the zone” philosophy. He made his MLB debut last season and now he has a win this season.
With respect to his journey, the accomplishment hadn’t really set in postgame.
“Actually, I haven’t really thought about it,” he said. “I’m sure it will come, but I’m just enjoying the moment right now.”
Asked who the first people he was going to call to talk about his win, he replied, “I will probably call my family and tell them all about it.”
It’s likely the “man of few words” will have a little more to say in that conversation.
- Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that right-handed reliever Andres Munoz has yet to resume his throwing program after suffering a setback this spring in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Munoz, 22, was part of the midseason 2020 trade that brought Ty France, Taylor Trammell and Luis Torrens over from the Padres in exchange for Austin Nola, Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams.
Munoz was already recovering from the surgery when he was traded, having undergone the procedure in March 2020. With a typical 12- to 14-month recovery, the hope was that he might be pitching in the Mariners bullpen by June 1. This setback will likely push back that estimated time of arrival.