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ESPN MLB insider on D-backs without Corbin: ‘Don’t think they can win division unless Dodgers implode’

LISTEN: Tim Kurkjian, ESPN MLB analyst

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson called the news about Patrick Corbin’s injured left elbow ‘a big kick in the gut.’

ESPN MLB insider Tim Kurkjian essentially agreed with Gibson but went a step a further calling it a proverbial death knell for the D-backs in their bid to reclaim the division in 2014.

“This is a big blow,” Kurkjian told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “There’s no way around that. I don’t think they can win the division on any level unless the Dodgers implode.”

Even with Corbin, who made his first All-Star team behind a first half that featured an 11-1 record and 2.35 ERA, the D-backs couldn’t compete with the Dodgers down the stretch in 2013. Though it held the division lead until July 22, Arizona was ultimately undone by its up-and-down starting pitching — 18th in ERA, 19th in WHIP and 22nd in BAA — after the All-Star break. It’s a department that remained a question mark heading into the upcoming campaign even before the Corbin news broke.

Although the team has a potential ace in waiting with Archie Bradley and added depth in the form of 37-year-old Bronson Arroyo, the inconsistent members from last year’s rotation — Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley — are still in the fold.

On paper, it doesn’t seem like an even race when considering the Dodgers’ star-studded lineup and a rotation anchored by Cy Young Award winners and a second-year hurler who won 14 games a season ago.

But the 162-game marathon that is the baseball season is not played on paper — a point Kurkjian notes in his brief attempt at a caveat for his NL West proclamation.

“If everything goes wrong with the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks could win the West,” said Kurkjian. “They’re going to have to beat the Giants, also. I think they are improved. This is a bad loss for the year potentially with Patrick Corbin.

“As much as I look at the Dodgers and say, ‘Wow they have some issues.’ They can pitch their way through most of them, if [Clayton] Kershaw, [Zack] Greinke, [Hyun-Jin] Ryu and the others are healthy. I think the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the division, and I think that became more clear when Corbin went down.”

Clearer? Maybe. But it wasn’t too long ago that Don Mattingly seemed destined to receive a pink slip.

Los Angeles reeled off an historic 50-13 stretch from June 3 to the end of August, eventually taking the National League West by a 11-game margin, but before Yasiel Puig’s arrival it was a team in utter disarray.

Puig, Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and the other cavalcade of stars might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but before etching Kurkjian’s words into stone, it might be smart to let the season play out just a bit.