The essential elements of spring training, some would argue, is the ability, and sometimes the luck, of making a major league roster. At the same time, this is also a time to refine skills.
With just over two weeks remaining in spring training, the period for enhancement of skills has passed the mid-way point. For those who have solidified roster spots, the point of ironing out kinks in their game remains in the rear view mirror. Now, it’s about settling in on bat speed, lengthen or shortening of swing, and recognizing the strike zone. For pitchers, there is a different criterion.
“Pitchers are always tweaking,” said manager Chip Hale prior to Wednesday night’s game with Cincinnati at Salt River. “The younger pitchers will try and refine, and the older guys will continue to tweak things.”
For starter Patrick Corbin, the process is, while fluid, still compartmentalized. Acknowledging “I have about two or three more starts in spring training,” Corbin is at the point where he is refining his change-up. As a third pitch, it’s his desire to integrate that into an effective delivery and complement his fast ball and slider. At the same time, Corbin said he’s working to increase his pitch count and otherwise be ready for his first start of the season.
“I wanted to see how the hitters swing on that pitch,” he said Wednesday night in reference to his curve. “My fast ball command is there, and I’m trying a few other things. It was good to see swings and misses on the curve, and it’s improving.”
In the pitches he threw (65, 40 for strikes), Corbin looked easy, confident and in control Wednesday night against the Reds. Pitching into the fifth inning, he went four frames plus one batter. Overall, the native of Clay, N. Y. tossed four plus innings, allowed three hits, two runs and one earned, walked two and struck out six hitters. His combined ERA for three spring starts is 1.00.
“I’m right near where I need to be,” he said. “My pitch count is rising, and I’d like to get around 90 by my first start.”
If spring training is the time to refine, Corbin seems ahead of schedule. Now in a clear projection toward his first start, the reviews are positive.
“When he is throwing an effective curve, he makes it difficult for hitters to sit on anything,” said Hale. “He told us after (his start Wednesday night), that’s the best he’s felt.”
That start will be in the third game of the season against the Rockies in Chase Field. Until then, Corbin appears fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery of nearly two years ago.
On the field Wednesday night, the Diamondbacks banged out 16 hits, and defeated Cincinnati, 10-6 before a sell-out crowd of 13,057 at Salt River. The sell-out was the fourth this spring for Arizona at home.
With two in the first and a five-spot in the second, the Diamondbacks cruised to their eighth straight, spring victory. Jean Segura led the attack with a 3-for-4 night, and brought his spring average to .583 (14-for-24) in seven games.
“No, I don’t worry and wins and losses here,” said Hale afterward. “The guys want to win, and you hear that on the bench.”
Former Diamondbacks’ pitcher Bronson Arroyo, a 39-year-old out of Key West Fla., suffered what could be a career-ending injury. During the 2014 season, Arroyo underwent Tommy John surgery and was sidelined when the Diamondbacks traded the veteran right-hander to Atlanta. In an attempt with the Nationals to gain a spot in the rotation this spring, Arroyo tore his labium, and was scratched from a start Wednesday. Peter Gammons of the MLB network tweeted out he believed the tear “to be 80 percent.”
Dealt from Arizona, along with former first round pick Touki Toussaint to the Atlanta Braves on June 20, 2014 for infielder Phil Gosselin, Arroyo was then traded to the Dodgers as part of a three-team deal. Then, he was granted free agency. Eventually, Arroyo signed a minor league contract with the Nationals.
Arroyo missed the entire 2015 season with that Tommy John surgery, has a career 145-131 record, and a 4.19 ERA over 15 major league seasons. Arroyo was 7-4 with the Diamondbacks and a 4.09 ERA in 14 starts during the 2014 season.
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks go national. That’s because a 4:05 p.m. local start (7:05 Eastern) with the Cubs at Sloane Park in Mesa is beamed nationally by ESPN. Right-hander Archie Bradley, in the mix for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, will take on Jason Hammel, who went 10-7, a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts last season for Chicago. Behind Bradley, look for righty Daniel Hudson, right-hander Tyler Clippard and lefty Keith Hessler.
The Diamondbacks return to Salt River Friday (at 1:10 p.m.) and face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right-hander Zack Godley starts for Arizona, and the Dodgers will count with right-hander Yimi Garcia. For Saturday, it’s a split squad. In an afternoon game at Salt River against Texas at 1:10 p.m., Zach Grienke starts for Arizona, and in a night game against the Mariners in Peoria, look for right-hander Tyler Wagner to get the start.