Patrick Corbin bolsters starting rotation

March 11, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. After six seasons with Arizona, Patrick Corbin has some new voices in his head now that he is with the Nationals.

But that is not a bad thing for the left-hander, who is becoming familiar with Washington pitching coach Derek Lilliquist just for starters.

“I think we are both trying to figure each other out, and work with each other,” said Corbin, who signed a six-year deal as a free agent in December. “What we like, what we don’t like. He has been great. We are both looking for new ideas.”

On paper, the addition of Corbin, a two-time All-Star, should give the Nationals one of the most formidable starting rotations in the major leagues.

The 29-year-old, who grew up near Syracuse, New York, was 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts last season for the Diamondbacks. He threw exactly 200 innings, allowing just 162 hits with 246 strikeouts.

Corbin figures to slot in the starting rotation behind the two Nationals’ aces, Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.53), who fanned 300 last year, and former No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.74), and in front of Anibal Sanchez, who signed as a free agent from the Atlanta Braves.

“I am looking forward to it,” Corbin said of working with Scherzer and Strasburg. “We have been together for a month now. They get their work in. To be part of this team is going to be pretty special.”

Nationals manager Dave Martinez can rely on bench coach Chip Hale for some insight into Corbin. Hale was the manager of Arizona from 2015-16 and was a coach for the Oakland A’s before joining the Washington staff last season.

Martinez, ready to begin his second season in Washington, said the veteran brings a lot of strengths developed over a career that includes All-Star nods in 2013 and 2018 and a fifth-place finish last season in the National League Cy Young award race.

“For him he has a solid routine,” Martinez said. “He understands (in spring training) what he needs to do.”

Corbin is trying to make one adjustment this season: throwing his change-up more often. It is perhaps a minor change, perhaps using the pitch 5 percent of the time instead of 2 percent. But that change so to speak can make a difference. When a hitter is looking for a fastball on a 3-1 count, Corbin could come in with a change.

“I have always thrown it,” Corbin said. “My first couple of years in the big leagues I had success with it. Just another weapon.”

Corbin was 6-8, 4.54 in his first season in 2012, but then improved to 14-8, 3.41 the next year.

By 2017, he won 14 and lost 13 with a 4.03 ERA. He lowered that by nearly a run last season with the Diamondbacks and the Nationals hoping they are getting the best of his track record and not the low-water marks.

Like most pitchers, Corbin tries to put a positive spin on every outing in spring training.

That was certainly the case on Friday, when he gave up base hits to the first five hitters against the St. Louis Cardinals on the road in Jupiter. The Cardinals scored three runs in the inning and won 3-2, but Corbin pitched three scoreless innings after the rough start. Corbin had not allowed any runs in his previous two starts this spring.

“Sometimes those innings can get on your when you throw 30 pitches in an inning,” said Corbin, who tossed 49 pitches in four frames. “It happens through the course of the year. But it’s good to be able to have that in the first and then finish four innings when you’re on a limited pitch count.”

Martinez also saw some positives out of the appearance.

“It as good for him to actually work through that inning and then come back and do what he did,” Martinez said. “It’s a testament to how hard he works.”