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Washington Nationals’ Patrick Corbin returns to team & builds back up in 2021 debut in Los Angeles...

Patrick Corbin got caught up in contact tracing after the Nationals’ COVID scare, but he was cleared to return and got his first start of the season in last night with mixed results...

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Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Davey Martinez wanted pitching coach Jim Hickey to see Patrick Corbin throw in LA before he made a decision on whether or not the southpaw, whose final Grapefruit League outing took place back on March 28th, would start the second of three with the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine.

“I know Hickey is going to be out there with Corbin today and seeing him throw on flat ground,” Martinez explained, “... and see where he’s at, and we’ll go from there.”

“I just want to put eyes on him and see where he’s at and talk to the training staff and see where he’s at.”

Apparently, the Nationals’ manager and pitching coach were satisfied with what they saw, because the club officially reinstated Corbin in time to start the matchup with the Dodgers, after the third-year Nat got caught up in the COVID crisis that hit the club before Opening Day.

“We’ll keep close eyes on him,” Martinez said before last night’s game.

“But last time he threw — he threw in a sim game in Fredericksburg, [Virginia] threw 45 pitches, went three innings, so we’re expecting to hopefully get five innings, maybe 75 pitches out of him.”

Corbin struggled to a (2-7) record in 11 outings in 2020’s 60-game campaign, over which he posted a 4.66 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, 2.47 BB/9, 8.22 K/9, and a .308/.349/.489 line against in 65 2⁄3 innings pitched, but he came into camp feeling better on the mound and his manager said he was expecting the left-hander to return to his form from his first year in D.C. in 2019.

“I actually think that he got going — I mean, last year was tough for him to get going. We had an abbreviated Spring [Training] 2.0, and he couldn’t quite get himself going. This year his slider was a little sharper again in Spring Training. He mixed in some changeups. His fastball was a lot better this Spring Training than it was last year coming in, so I expect him to go out there and be the Patrick that he was in previous years.

“With that being said, we know we got to keep an eye on him, he’s missed some time. I talked to him yesterday, he said he felt really good, so we’ll see what happens today.”

Back-to-back-to-back walks, a one-out, two-run single, and a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the second put Corbin and the Nationals in a 5-1 hole, and left the left-hander at 44 pitches after two. He worked around back-to-back, one-out hits in the third, dialing up an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP, and then struck the side out in a 15-pitch fourth which left him at 70 pitches overall.

Corbin came back out for the fifth and retired one batter, but a one-out single by Corey Seager and RBI double by Justin Turner ended the lefty’s outing with the Dodgers up by five, 6-1, in what ended up a 9-5 loss.

Patrick Corbin’s Line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 80 P, 48 S, 3/3 GO/FO.

Corbin and Martinez talked after the outing about what they saw in the left-hander’s 2021 debut.

“I actually thought he threw the ball well,” Martinez said. “He had one rough inning with the walks. But the ball was coming out. Right now the big thing is we have to try to get him stretched out, but he went five innings, threw 80 pitches, so I feel good about it. Next outing hopefully it’s a little better, but he felt good about it.

“So we just got to get him going and get him back in the rotation.”

“I think it was good to get it extended to get up to 80 pitches today,” Corbin said, stressing the positives when asked to assess his own performance. “I thought that was a positive out there. I don’t think I had my best stuff, was missing a little bit there, I had those three walks in a row there, maybe being a little too fine.

“But for the situations and everything that we had to deal with, I feel alright. I’m just hoping to move on from this, get on a normal schedule here and be ready to get back out there in five days and be ready to go.”

Corbin had a nice stretch between the fourth and fifth when he settled in and struck out four in a row, but even then he said he didn’t feel like everything was in sync.

“I thought at some times tonight I was a little rotational, just missing glove-side to a lot of those lefties,” he explained. “The homer, the two doubles that I did give up were sinkers down and away that kind of cut on me. It just seemed like I was inconsistent on some of those pitches tonight.

“Even on those strikeouts there, I felt alright,” he said, “I didn’t feel my slider was as sharp tonight as it normally is. Being rotational I think was probably the biggest thing not being sharp with some of those pitches.”

The hope now is that he built up, he’ll have time to work between outings after a frustrating week-plus waiting to get cleared to play, and going forward he’s on a normal schedule so a routine is set.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s different for everybody here dealing with this,” Corbin acknowledged.

“It’s something that no one is used to so, trying to do as much as we can being at home trying to make sure your arm is ready to go, and just trying to get back on a normal routine, that’s the biggest thing. I’m glad I was able to get up five times, get out there, build up that pitch count, and hopefully throw a bullpen here in a couple days and feel good for my next outing.”