At this time last spring, all Patrick Corbin could do was sit and watch. Picking up a baseball was far from consideration, and his protracted rehabilitation seem to drag forever.
Corbin, a 26-year-old out of Clay, N. Y., was coming off of Tommy John surgery, and injured his left elbow just before the start of the 2014 season. All set to open the Diamondbacks’ campaign in Sydney, Australia against the Dodgers two years ago, Corbin suffered the injury in a pre-season game against Cleveland late in spring training, and immediately underwent surgery. Though he returned for the second half of last season, the Diamondbacks were cautious and careful how they handled the left-hander, who was named to the National League All-Star team just two seasons previously.
Though Corbin turned in a credible season of 6-5 and a 3.60 ERA, and won the hearts and minds of club officials, he expressed disillusionment by not being allowed to go deep into games. For his 16 starts, Corbin went a total of 85 innings, and that was an average of 5.1 innings per start.
Now, the reigns have been taken off and after a regularly regimented off-season routine, Corbin is ready to join the rotation with full steam ahead. While most pitchers set goals of 30 starts and 200 innings, Corbin believes he is on target to reach both standards. In his All-Star season of 2013, he started 32 games and pitched 208.1 innings.
“The elbow feels great, and I’m ready,” he said Thursday in the Diamondbacks clubhouse at Salt River. “I had my normal routine in the off-season, and starting throwing around Christmas.”
When he was healthy three years ago, Corbin was nearly electrifying. Among National League leaders, he was first in first-pitch strike with 70 percent, tied for third in complete games, ninth in innings pitched, and tied for 10th in victories. His 14-8 season, along with a 3.41 ERA included 174 strikeouts in his 200-plus inning season.
While the Diamondbacks anointed Zack Greinke as the team’s number one starter, and opening day pitcher, manager Chip Hale indicated that Corbin and Shelby Miller, acquired in an off-season deal with Atlanta, are very close behind. Instead of labeling Miller number two and Corbin number three, Hale merely said, “maybe Corbin and Miller are 2A and 2B.”
Whatever Corbin is listed, he falls into an improved starting rotation. Just by replacing Chase Anderson, dealt to Milwaukee, with Greinke and Jeremy Hellickson, traded to the Phillies, with Miller is a vast improvement. At the same time, Corbin, who Hale said could be his number one if Grienke was not on the roster, is not bothered by labels.
“Competition will be a huge part of the rotation,” Corbin said. “In the end, you get the ball every fifth day and produce. For me, it’s all about getting better, and giving my team a chance to win each time I go out.”
With Corbin now given the “green light” for full activity, the Diamondbacks look forward to his progress. Still cognizant of his medical past, the aim is not to push and maintain a careful eye.
“We’ll let Patrick be Patrick,” said general manager Dave Stewart. “When he finished last season, there were no set-backs and, like I said, Patrick will be Patrick.”
For his part, Corbin will make room for Grienke at the top of the rotation, and said a pitcher of Greinke’s character and production will have a residual effect down through the rotation. Though considered quiet and taciturn, Greinke should lead by example, and that dimension will likely speak louder than words. In the end, Corbin acknowledged, “(Grienke) brought a spark which was not here before.”
According to reports, the Diamondbacks have picked up the option on manager Chip Hale’s 2017 contract. Hale signed a two-year deal when hired after the 2014 season, and that came with an option year of 2017.
As of late Thursday, the Diamondbacks did not confirm they picked up Hale’s extension. That would make Hale under contract through the 2017 season.
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks named Mark Snipp and Tim Wilken as Special assistants to GM Dave Stewart, and Pete Vuckovich as pro scout.
In addition, Luis Gonzalez was promoted to Senior Advisor to the President & CEO Derrick Hall.
Snipp worked with the Cincinnati Reds as a national cross-checker and special assignment scout from 2006-15, and was credited as one of the signing scouts for Cuban pitcher Raisel Iglesias.
Wilken comes to the Diamondbacks after spending the previous 10 seasons with the Chicago Cubs as director of amateur and professional scouting from (2006-12) and special assistant to the president and general manager (2012-15).
Vuckovich, who won the 1982 American League Cy Young Award, begins his first season with the D-backs’ after spending four seasons with the Seattle Mariners as the special assistant to the general manager (Sept. 2011-15).