Patrick Corbin had a three-time Cy Young award winner for a throwing partner this winter. If you’re going to work out with Max Scherzer, it’s got to be hard not to try to pick his brain to see if there’s any insight he can provide that could take your game to another level. Corbin and his teammate with the Washington Nationals threw together around West Palm Beach, FL, and the southpaw who is heading into his third season in D.C. discovered it isn’t always easy trying to catch Scherzer’s stuff.
“It’s not easy catching his stuff,” Corbin said, “... so that’s a negative with that, but yeah, definitely picking his brain on pitching and everything like that. Max is just a — he’s a different guy. He can do a lot of things that a lot of pitchers can’t do, so for me, I just try to pick up a couple of those things and just try to bring it to my game.
“Obviously how he competes out there is something that I like to do as well. Just his career that he’s had and the type of person and the pitcher that he is, I’m lucky to be able to work out with him and throw with him during the offseason.”
While the left and right-hander might not have a lot in common, mechanically speaking, the two of them did talk grips and cutter grips, in particular.
“I like to just see what he’s thinking with his cutter, he throws about 3-4 different ones, the zones in which he does,” Corbin explained.
“He’s a high ball pitcher and I generally in my career have been a low ball pitcher, so I think trying to mix in some higher pitchers at some points on certain hitters, try to see which hitters maybe don’t hit those as well. It tends to seem that most hitters now are low ball hitters, and it seems that’s the trend in the game.
“I think you have to change eye-level, and Max does that with the best of them, so I’d say that would be one thing that I could maybe bring to my game that can help. We’re always, as pitchers trying to find ways to get better and learning from Max is beneficial for me.”
Corbin said after his first start of the Grapefruit League season earlier this month that one of his goals each spring is to get the slider, his bread and butter, working right before he starts playing around with other pitches, like the cutter and changeup he’s trying to add to his mix this year.
“I feel like I always try to make sure my slider is there,” Corbin told reporters. “I know people are always trying to work on other things, but I like to make sure that’s where it needs to be, and it feels really good right now, but then I do like to see what some other pitches do, and maybe some things that I want to do normally in a regular season.
“I’m always trying to evolve, trying to get better. I talked with Max a lot about — he throws 5-6 pitches, so always looking to get better is really what that’s about.”
Corbin has thrown his slider 37-40% of the time in the first two years of his 6-year/$140M deal with the Nationals, mixing in his sinker (34%), four-seam (17-19%), changeup (5%), and curve (2-3%).
He talked at length about his changeup after his initial outing of the 2021 season, and his desire to up the usage, but it was the hard cutter that he talked about after start No. 2 on Thursday.
“It feels pretty good,” Corbin said. “I’ve always been a slider guy, so to me it feels natural, it feels like it’s coming out pretty similar. The grip is a little bit different, and it’s kind of the same direction my slider goes when I release it, so it’s something that — I mean, this is the second game that I’ve thrown it in. I’ve thrown it in some bullpens, and obviously playing catch, but I like where it is now, and if we can continue to — if it continues to be effective out there, it’ll be something that I’ll be looking to throw a lot this season.”
The grip for the pitch, he said, is something that came out of his talks with Scherzer as the two of them threw together.
“Just talking with Max, playing catch with him, he kind of showed me how he throws his,” Corbin said, “and how he throws multiple different types of cutters, so it was just something — I always thought I wanted something around 77-ish [MPH], give or take, a little bit off my fastball, harder than my slider, something to maybe — I throw one less pitch to each hitter, so that’s kind of the idea behind that.
“I don’t know, I like what I’ve been seeing from it, I’ve heard good feedback from [catcher] Yan [Gomes] about it, so it will be something I continue to throw.”
His manager liked what he saw from the pitch, which could be a useful weapon for the lefty.
“I think it’s something, one he can throw backdoor to righties,” Davey Martinez said after the Nationals’ matchup with the Miami Marlins, in which Corbin tossed two scoreless, walking two, and striking out three, “or he can actually — something a little harder than a slider. He throws a hard slider, but something that stays on the plane like his fastball, that can get in on righties as well.
“Instead of always throwing the sinker in with the slider in, this is something else that he can add, and like I said, he’s throwing it well.”