Patrick Corbin hadn’t pitched in relief since 2017, when he made one appearance out of the bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but in the 2019 postseason, the 30-year-old starter, who signed a 6-year/$140M deal with the Washington Nationals last winter, did whatever he could to help the eventual World Series champions.
Corbin made three starts and came out of the bullpen five times in October, the fifth in Game 7 of the Fall Classic, a three-inning outing which saw him keep the Houston Astros off the board as the Nationals rallied to take the lead.
Overall in the regular season, Corbin went (14-7) in 33 starts, with a 3.25 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 70 walks (3.12 BB/9), 238 Ks (10.60 K/9), and a .227/.293/.375 line against in 202 IP, and he put up a 5.79 ERA, a 2.91 FIP, 12 walks (4.63 K/9), 36 strikeouts (3.89 K/9), and a .233/.330/.333 line against in eight games, three starts, and 23 1⁄3 IP during the Nationals’ postseason run.
Corbin’s 225 1⁄3 IP overall in the first year of his six-year deal were 17 more than he’d thrown in any previous major league season, so the Nationals decided on a measured approach in his preparation for the upcoming season, holding him and his rotation mate Stephen Strasburg back a few days before having them make their first starts.
Strasburg made his 2020 Grapefruit League debut on Friday night, and it was Corbin’s turn on Saturday. He threw two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up two walks, one hit, and one earned run (on a solo home run).
Corbin threw just 24 pitches total in the two innings of work, and he said afterwards that he accomplished what he intended to in his first outing.
“I think you just want to come out feeling good,” Corbin told reporters in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium, “and I was able to throw everything out there and just continue to build out that pitch count.”
Getting back to starting after those postseason relief appearances was a welcome change.
“Yeah, postseason is a different story,” Corbin said, “but looking forward to getting back to my original role for the season and just good to get back out there and yeah, happy to be back.”
All the work last year was worth it in the end, for Corbin, who was in the postseason for the first time, and his teammates, who battled their way to the championship, but now it’s time to move on and get back to the work of preparing for his second season in D.C.
“For a lot of us last year we threw a lot more than we have in the past, or longer, so I think it can help, we’ve just got to see — this is my first outing, so we’ll just kind of continue to build from here, see how I feel after this, but yeah, I feel pretty good after this one, so just looking forward to continuing to get stronger, get more pitches under me and get ready for my next outing.”
“I like what I saw out of Pat,” manager Davey Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato. after what ended up a loss to the Cards.
“Had some nice fluidity,” Martinez explained. “He was getting extended, which was kind of nice. He felt good. Now we’ll build him up his next outing.”
The plan overall for his pitchers this Spring now that they’ve all thrown in game action?
“For me, the biggest thing is it helps us get a routine,” Martinez said.
“Now, all of a sudden, we know exactly what to expect, what to look for. It’s hard early in the Spring to see where these guys are at. Now, all of a sudden, they fall in this routine. We know what we need to do, how we need to proceed forward to get them ready for the season. It’s kind of nice to see them all out there competing and getting back in that groove.”
“Each one of these is another jump from our live hitters to pitching in games here and then also for the regular season when it starts up,” Corbin said, “but you do try to just stay under control and just try to work on some things out there. Try to feel good.
“We know that it’s not going to be there necessarily Game 1, so hopefully next time you feel better and just continue to get better each game.”
Though it was just the first step in his progression (or third really, after throwing bullpens, and live bullpens), Corbin said he was happy with the results.
“I thought today we threw the ball in pretty well. Even though there were misses I was able to get extended and have good misses inside, and those are just the things I’ll take away.”