SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nineteen days away from their season-opening two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks have revealed their hand — at least as it pertains to who will be starting both games on the mound at Sydney Cricket Ground.
The announcement came down Monday morning from, of all places, the Twitter feed of the suddenly technologically-savvy Kirk Gibson.
Although the D-backs manager was more than thrilled to break the news with his third ever tweet on the social media website, he did go into more detail regarding the decision to give the nod to Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill when speaking with reporters before the team’s split-squad game with the Los Angeles Angels Monday afternoon.
“We thought Patrick because of the year he had last year and he came into camp in great shape,” Gibson said. “He’s throwing the ball really well for us. We thought he deserved to be our starter in game one. And I liked the matchup with Cahill in game two. He’s thrown the ball well too, actually.
“We went out after [the meeting], and he had a very good bullpen session. I feel think we made a lot of progress with him more consistent and being able to throw the pitches he needs to throw.”
The decision came after deliberation early Monday morning between Gibson, general manager Kevin Towers, pitching coach Mike Harkey and consultants Dave Duncan, Mike Fetters and Mel Stottlemyre.
And while giving the ball to a 24-year-old with no prior Opening Day experience might seem a bit bold, Gibson noted that everyone was in agreement that Corbin is ready for the assignment.
“It was just something that we talked about,” said Gibson. “I talked to Patrick about it. We had a lot of discussion. Just looking ahead to the schedule, that doesn’t mean he’ll be starting Opening Day against the Giants, either. We have flexibility in the schedule beyond that.
“All and all, it’s something that we needed to consider. We’re pretty comfortable with the young kid being able to handle the workload.”
Although Corbin went just 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers in 2013, he reiterated that he won’t be putting a lot of pressure on himself when he kicks off the campaign against his National League West foes.
“It’s an honor,” Corbin said. “I think everyone wants to start the first game. That’s how I prepared myself this offseason up to where we are today at this point. Just hearing it today officially, now I’m going to stay on the schedule that I was on. I’m really excited to get out there and help the team win.”
Sweeping the reigning division champions seems to be what also spurred on the decision to start Cahill in the second game of the two-game set. Although he labored through an up-and-down 2013 campaign, the 26-year-old is 6-0 in his career against the Dodgers with a pristine 2.01 ERA.
“I like the way Trevor throws,” said Gibson. “He throws good against the Dodgers. They have three lefties in [Adrian] Gonzalez, who is the guy in the lineup that has given us some trouble, [Carl] Crawford and [Andre] Ethier. His stuff plays good to try and get through their lineup.
“I think he’s throwing the ball really good. Mentally, he’s in a good spot and we’ve made a lot of progress. Trevor is always trying to figure out why he can’t do this when he wants to do. But we focused on a little different, tactful way. I think it’s starting to come together for him.
While the five-year veteran was a bit shocked about the media fanfare that surrounded the news of him getting the second start of the series, Cahill said he’s thrilled to take the ball in Sydney.
“It’s an honor and I’m excited,” Cahill said. “I think the biggest thing for me and Corbin is to go out and treat it like any other game. It’s international play. But at the end of the year, it’s just two games. It does mean a lot more. But both of us will pitch better if we treat it like any other game.”
The decision will not alter their typical workload, either. According to Gibson, Corbin and Cahill will receive the last two Cactus League starts before the trip on March 15 and 16 against the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers and will be allowed to throw between 90 and 100 pitches in Australia.
Arizona will likely also add a third catcher for the two-game series and keep multiple starting pitchers at home in an effort to get them more work before the team’s home opener March 31.
Between the Australia trip and the Chase Field opener, the D-backs will also play in five more Cactus League games.