About this time last year, Patrick Corbin was looked at as a solid prospect who had a chance to crack the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation out of spring training.
But now he may be the team’s ace.
Corbin earned a spot in the rotation with a strong spring, and went on to win 14 games and have an ERA of 3.41, numbers made worse by an ugly August and September that saw him allow 43 earned runs in 64 innings of work.
From April to July, though, Corbin allowed just 36 runs — total — in 144.1 innings.
He was good. Very good. An All-Star.
But his approach won’t change now that his spot in the rotation is pretty much guaranteed.
“My mindset is the same for this spring,” Corbin told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “Just going to come in and try to earn my spot. I don’t think anything’s handed to you or granted.”
Corbin said the goal is to improve every day, and there’s every reason to believe a 24 and with just 315.1 major league innings under his belt, the left-hander can still get better as a pitcher. He said one of the things he did well last season was locating his pitches — especially his fastball — but that may have gotten away from him a bit late in the season.
“I think this year I understand how long the season is, so maybe that’s something I need to focus on,” he said. “Whether it’s working out a little more or backing off a little bit; these are things that you learn year-by-year and you develop a routine.
“Coming into my second year, I think I understand a little better.”
That may be the key.
It’s not unusual for a young player to struggle in the latter part of their first full season, and the fact that Corbin may have worn down a bit is not unreasonable. Prior to 2013, the most innings he had thrown in a minor league season was 160.1, which he did for Double-A Mobile in 2011.
Needless to say, the 208.1 he tossed last season were a career high, and the amount of work likely led to his late-year issues.
“I really don’t understand why,” Corbin said of the problems. “The only thing, maybe, because it’s such a long year and it was kind of my first season, and it’s about a month longer than the minors so it’s a little different step for me.”
Being able to take the next step and get past that could be the difference in Patrick Corbin the All-Star and Patrick Corbin the Cy Young candidate.
But that’s for someone else to worry about, as he doesn’t even look at himself as the team’s “ace” right now, even if others do.
“I believe every pitcher wants to be the ace, but that’s not something I think about,” he said. “Every fifth day when I get the ball I’m going to go out there and try to give my team the best chance to win and whether I pitch day one or day five, to me it doesn’t really matter.
“I’m just going to try to get better start by start and do as much as I can because I get the ball 33 times a year, something around there. So just whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s my job.”