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Spring training’s fifth starter competition has bred recent results for D-backs

With Patrick Corbin notching his 10th win of the season on Sunday, three of the last five Arizona Diamondbacks wins belong to the trio of pitchers who were competing for the final spot in the team’s starting rotation during spring training.

It was Corbin, of course, who ultimately earned the spot over Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado, going undefeated in Cactus League play and through the first three months of the regular season, before getting stuck with his first loss on Tuesday at Citi Field against the New York Mets.

It seemed apparent by mid-spring training that Corbin would prevail in the competition if he could only find a way to maintain some level of congruence to his performance in the first few weeks of spring. He did, breaking camp with a 2.81 ERA over 25.2 innings pitched, but the decision to give the 23-year-old left-hander the spot didn’t keep the other two candidates from making a recent impact in the rotation they failed to make just a few months ago.

Delgado, the new, 23-year-old face at Salt River Fields when Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported in late February, turned in a Cactus League performance that was riddled with mediocrity — compiling a 7.45 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP in 19.1 innings pitched.

But Wednesday, the Panamanian national
outpitched Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey, earning the win to snap the rotation’s 24-game winless streak. Delgado struck out nine and walked none in the performance, while allowing just two Mets baserunners to score. Acquired in the trade that sent Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves, Delgado’s win earlier in the week was his first as a D-back.

The other challenger for the job, Skaggs, was widely considered the odds-on favorite to win the intra-squad competition, garnering a reputation as the Diamondbacks’ No. 1 prospect prior to the 2013 season. The 21-year-old southpaw had dazzled scouts with his pitching repertoire in each of his previous three professional seasons, showcasing a curveball that drew comparisons to that of Cole Hamels.

But Skaggs faltered during spring training, dropping out of contention for the spot before either of the other candidates after accruing an 11.00 ERA while lasting a combined nine innings in his four starts. Opponents batted .350 against him and his WHIP ended up at a 2.44 mark.

Skaggs, the former Angels’ prospect who, along with Corbin, came to the Diamondbacks organization in the Dan Haren trade in 2010, got his third call-up of the season on Friday, getting the nod against the Rockies to kickoff a 10-game homestand. He tossed eight innings of shut out baseball, allowing just four of the visiting Rockies batters to reach base while striking out five.

Then, on Sunday, Corbin provided the rotation with something he’s been bringing virtually all calendar year — a quality start — in an encore performance for the Diamondbacks’ dominant showing in their series against the Rockies. The All-Star matched Skaggs’ Friday night effort of eight innings, allowing three hits and one walk while giving up a single earned run.

With the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day No. 2 and 3 starters, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy, both on the disabled list, the opportunity for all of the original Diamondbacks’ No. 5 starter candidates to impact the team’s starting mix has emerged and, thus far, materialized.

“I’ll tell you what,” catcher Miguel Montero said after Sunday’s game, “those young busters coming up have been doing a darn good job.”