SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With the additions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, a former all-star, is expected to be the Arizona Diamondbacks No. 3 starter this season.
That wasn’t the plan only a few months ago.
“He was going to be our horse, our No. 1, if we didn’t make these signings and the trades,” manager Chip Hale said, referring to the signing of Greinke and acquisition of Miller.
Greinke, Hale announced this week, will start Opening Day with either Miller or Corbin to follow. The latter decision will depend on matchups though it would make sense, according to Hale, to slot the lefty Corbin between two right-handers.
“I don’t say one guy’s a ‘2’, one guy’s a ‘3’; it’s ‘2’ and ‘2A’. We’ll figure out where they’re going to start,” Hale said.
To his credit, Corbin doesn’t care where he’s placed in the rotation—“I mean after Opening Day, you get a couple starts in you, it’s just every fifth start for a starter,” he said Thursday following the first pitchers and catchers workout at Salt River Fields—he’s just happy to be included in the conversation, something he was excluded from this time a year ago.
At the start of spring training in 2015, Corbin was still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of 2014.
He returned in July and made 16 starts, going 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA.
Now 23 months removed from surgery, Corbin enters spring training in 2016 completely healthy.
“Everything feels good; elbow is great. Just excited to get back on the bump and face hitters at this time of the year and be out there and make every fifth start,” he said, adding he feels more a part of the team this spring. “Being able to throw with the guys and go out there and do drills. That was something last year I wasn’t able to do, the PFPs (pitchers fielding practice) and the pickoffs. Kind of fell behind in that part of the game. It’ll be good.”
What’s also good is not being restricted, either by a pitch count or an innings limit; both of which came into play upon his return last season.
“Coming off a Tommy John, last year we really protected him. We talked about having like the training wheels on, almost to the point where he was frustrated at times,” Hale said. “This year, we’ll let him go and we’ll just watch it and watch the health of his arm and be careful. It’s more his body now and letting us know how he feels.”
Told of Hale’s comments, Corbin said, “That’s good. I think if I feel good, feel healthy, I want to go out there every fifth day and try to go deep into ballgames and build up my pitch count. This year I won’t have the 80-limit on me. It’ll be good to be able to go out there and not think about that and the elbow feeling better.”
Two seasons ago, Corbin started 11-1, earned a spot on the National League All-Star team and finished with a team-best 14 wins while making 32 starts.
Corbin, 26, sees no reason why he can’t accomplish the same this season.
“A couple of years ago I got over the 200-mark and made every start, so that’s right where I want to be again and that’s where I’ve prepared myself,” he said. “I think last year being able to get above 100 innings total between at the major league level and in my minor league starts was good.”
It also allowed for a normal offseason, for once.
Corbin said he began his throwing program around Christmas, just days after he learned he had gained two new teammates in Greinke and Miller.
“I think it’ll be good for the competition to have those guys go out there and try to out-do one another,” Corbin said. “Everybody has some high hopes for us this year. We still have to go out there perform and do well. We definitely have the guys to do that, so it’s time to work and prepare for that goal.”
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