SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Like it did for Shelby Miller on Saturday, the first start of spring acted as a reset button for Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin.
Finishing 2016 as a long reliever after losing his starting job, Corbin enters 2017 thinking only about returning to his previous form. And that’s as a starter.
Ask D-backs manager Torey Lovullo: Arizona has confidence in Corbin despite his down year.
“I’ve had conversations with him about last year,” Lovullo said. “It’s just my way of kind of communicating, getting grounded with him and understanding where he’s at and the type of year he had. I know last year was a really frustrating year for him. I know he found himself in the bullpen but landed back on his feet and that’s a credit to his mental strength.
“Once I got a little background on him and he told me a little story about his year and who he is, I’m anxious to see where that takes him right now. Everything’s laid out for him.”
Corbin finished last year with a 5.15 ERA and a 5-13 record, but he closed as a reliever with just two earned runs over 15 innings spanning seven September games.
If Corbin pitches like he did Monday from here on out, he won’t have to worry about earning a starting job.
The left-hander recorded three strikeouts and no hits allowed at Salt River Fields in a 6-1 spring victory against the Cincinnati Reds.
“We didn’t really go over their lineup,” Corbin said. “Just tried to go out there and locate my fastball. Threw a couple changeups and my slider, so just mixed it up. I think the biggest thing to take away is feeling good.”
Corbin started aggressively with a 0-2 count on speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton, but the pitcher fell behind and then walked him.
Cincinnati, however, grounded into a double play before Corbin closed the first with a strikeout.
“I felt like the ball was coming out good and felt like I was able to locate my fastball, get ahead of guys,” Corbin said.
After an 11-pitch second that included two more strikeouts, Corbin called it an afternoon having tossed 28 pitches, 19 for strikes.
BACKUP BY BANDA
Once Corbin’s day ended, Arizona continued to get aggressive pitching from Anthony Banda.
The top-ranked prospect in the D-backs’ system, by most accounts, threw 13 pitches in his first inning with his fastball climbing to 96. He gave up a deep fly ball to Tucker Barnhardt that was tracked down by A.J. Pollock in center but then worked through the next two batters to get out of the third.
Against the top of the Reds’ order, including Hamilton, Banda struck out the first two batters in the fourth inning, then fielded a ground ball at the mound for the final out. Like Corbin, he went two frames with three strikeouts, no walks and no hits. Banda threw 26 pitches, 19 for strikes.
“The pitching set the tone. Patrick did a great job of attacking the zone from pitch one. Banda, Anthony picked it up from there. Just really set an aggressive tone for us on the mound,” Lovullo said.
“There’s firsts for everything. I’m just glad the team was able to say the team won their first spring game. I thought about it. When the coaches were congratulating me, it makes you feels special. It’s in and out that fast and it’s time to get to work tomorrow.”
— Torey Lovullo on his first win as D-backs manager
— Zack Greinke pitched two simulated innings on Monday. The ace threw 20 pitches in a first inning, rested and threw another 15 pitches, Lovullo said. “At this point in time, we’re going to let him tell us how he feels,” Lovullo said. “For me, he’s spot on. He’s not behind in any way, shape or form, he feels great.”
— Jake Lamb was a scratch to the D-backs’ lineup due to a stomach virus. A similar illness put D-backs pitcher Jimmie Sherfy in the hospital for two days, according to Lovullo, but he is expected back in camp Tuesday.
— Lovullo admitted some D-backs pitchers that fail to win starting jobs may move to the bullpen.
He’s already had conversations about it with pitchers like Sunday starter Braden Shipley. Other pitchers who are less willing will end up as starters Triple-A Reno.
“All those that we considered as one of our possible eight or nine starters know they are here to compete as a starter, and if it doesn’t happen that way, they have a chance to win a spot in the bullpen,” Lovullo said. “We’re not going to ask guys to go outside of their roles or outside of their comfort zone. We’re comfortable knowing we’re going to put them in an area of strength.”
— Reymond Fuentes hit a three-run home run in the eighth on an otherwise quiet offensive outing, despite Arizona running out much of its major league team for half of the afternoon. Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Brandon Drury and Yasmany Tomas combined to go 1-for-14.
— Catcher Oscar Hernandez caught for both Corbin and Banda before Josh Thole took over.
“The things that I’ve seen from (Hernandez) are the soft hands, the understanding and reading swings, the ability to get pitches close to the zone and work for his pitcher,” Lovullo said.
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