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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Patrick Corbin in 2022; Aaron Sanchez in camp + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability from West Palm Beach, FL on Wednesday...

Corbin Keeps Trying To Turn It Around:

The third year of Patrick Corbin’s 6-year/$140M contract with the Nationals ended with the 32-year-old lefty sporting a 5.82 ERA, a 5.41 FIP, 60 walks, 143 Ks, and a .286/.345/.510 line against in 31 starts and 171 2⁄3 innings pitched, over which he gave up 37 homers, the most by any National League starter, and the second-most in the majors in 2021, behind only the Texas Rangers’ Jordan Lyles (38).

“I think maybe last year developed some bad habits that possibly came into this year and took a while to correct,” Corbin said, pointing to his struggles in the follow-up to the Nats’ 2019 World Series run in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign as well as his rough 2021 run, after his final outing of the season, “... and [it] was definitely very frustrating, so hopefully a couple of changes that I did, will just continue to try to get better with those things.”

Coming into Spring Training 2022, Corbin’s manager, Davey Martinez, said he hoped the southpaw would just put 2021 behind him and move on to the fourth year of his lucrative six-year deal.

“You know, when I saw Patrick I told him hey, it’s a fresh start for him in 2022,” Martinez told reporters on Day 2 of Spring Training on Monday.

“I don’t even want him to think, I don’t want him to go back and look at what happened last year, let’s just focus on the here and now and move forward, and he’s in a good place.

“He threw a bullpen yesterday and he looked really, really good. So, we’re just going to build off of that.

“I don’t want him to think about — we all know that things didn’t go well for him last year, but we want him to get back to the form that he was in ‘19, the guy that helped us win a World Series championship.”

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Martinez has preached keeping the ball down in the zone and sticking with what worked for Corbin before he struggled the past two seasons, and the Nats’ skipper said he saw positive signs in the starter’s first bullpen session of the spring.

“From what I’ve seen today, he kept everything down,” Martinez said. “That’s something we talked to him about at the end of the year. He had good movement on his fastball. The first time that I’m seeing him this spring, and he threw a couple of sliders that were very sharp, he kept them down.

“I think he’s going to have a year that he’s had in the past. I told him before we left last year to put this year behind you and come back to being who you are, and I think he’s one of the guys that took it to heart. He’s in great shape. Like I said, he threw the ball well today, so we’ll build off of that, but I think he’s going to have a good bounce-back year.”

Corbin’s latest throwing session on Wednesday was another positive outing for the lefty, who looked good on the mound.

“Very good,” Martinez said. “Like we talked about with him, it’s keeping the ball down. Kept the ball down, fastball command was good, his slider was good, sharp, and his changeup was down in the zone which was nice to see. So, and he felt good. At the end of it he said he felt really good, really strong, so it was a good day for him.”

The hope, the manager said, is that if Corbin gets back to what worked, the results will be better than they have been the past two seasons, as he’s tinkered and tried to find a fix for what’s ailed him since a solid run in his first season in D.C. in 2019.

“Yeah, we talked to him a lot about pitching down in the zone, and he’s really good when he does that,” Martinez reiterated.

“He wants to get back to that, which, it came out of his mouth early on this spring. So that’s good. If you guys can recall the game last year against Cincinnati, the way he pitched, our whole conversation before that game was down in the zone, down in the zone, down in the zone, and he pitched really well, so I think he understands now that he has to stay down.

“A lot of times we get caught up in the whole analytics about we got to throw a pitch up, but he doesn’t have to. He sinks the ball, he’s got a good slider and a good changeup, so that’s who he is, so we want him to keep the ball down.

“When he was successful that’s where he was.”

Aaron Sanchez In Nats’ Rotation?:

Surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder kept Aaron Sanchez off the mound in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, and the right-handed starter had a biceps issue which limited him to nine games (seven starts) and 35 13 IP for the San Francisco Giants in 2021, but the Nationals felt with his experience (seven big league seasons) and relatively young age (29), the pitcher was a gamble worth taking, and the club signed Sanchez to a minor league deal earlier this month, and he’s in camp competing for a spot on the roster in D.C.

In the nine games he pitched in last year, Sanchez put up a 3.06 ERA, a 4.05 FIP, 15 walks, 26 Ks, and a .234/.327/.329 line against, and he’s bringing a career 3.93 ERA and 4.38 FIP with him as he tries to earn a rotation spot.

What did the Nationals’ brass see in Sanchez that led them to sign him?

Toronto Blue Jays Vs Washington Nationals Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

“Here’s a guy that’s had some injuries,” manager Davey Martinez said during Wednesday’s press availability from West Palm Beach, “... but he has some unbelievable upside, and we wanted to take a chance, bring him in and see what he can do. He threw a bullpen today and he threw the ball really, really well, so the big thing with him as I talk to him is that we’re here to help him.”

Before he was injured last season, Sanchez featured a four-pitch mix, throwing 30.6% curveballs, on which opposing hitters had a .209 AVG, 30.3% sinkers (.224 BAA), 20% changeups (.250 BAA), and a 19.2% four-seamers (.294 BAA), and while his velocity dipped across the board, the Nats believe if he’s able to stay healthy, as Martinez said, they may have something.

“For me, we have one of the best medical staffs in baseball, and he needs to get in there and they got some stuff that they’re going to do with him to keep him healthy,” Martinez said.

“If we can keep him healthy, he will definitely help us. I’m looking at him as a starter right now, but who knows. I know he’s done both, but we’ll see. The big thing for him is to stay healthy.”

Sánchez, Aníbal:

Aníbal Sánchez didn’t pitch at any level of the game in 2021, but the 38-year-old, 15-year veteran decided he wanted to pitch again, and after throwing in a showcase earlier this month, he signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, for whom he pitched in 2019-2020, with an invitation to come to Spring Training and compete for a spot on the Nats’ Opening Day roster.

His manager, Davey Martinez, liked what he saw from the hurler in his first time on the hill this spring earlier this week.

“Aníbal threw a bullpen today and he was strike one, strike one, strike one. And he threw the ball really well, so that was good to see,” the skipper told reporters on Monday.

The plan with the pitcher, considering he did have a year off? Sánchez told his manager he would be ready to pitch in the Grapefruit League opener on Friday, but Martinez said that a more cautious approach might be preferable.

“He’s been throwing, as you know, he’s already said that he can pitch in a game and we’re like, “Hey, you’re going to throw a bullpen today, he’ll throw a live [bullpen], and then we’ll see where he’s at from there,” the manager joked, “but he’s thrown, he’s thrown a few [live bullpens] already, but he’s itching to get back.

2019 World Series Game 7 - Washington Nationals v. Houston Astros Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“He didn’t pitch all of last year, so he’s excited, but what I did notice is he had a lot more extension in his fastball, and it was kind of nice. I mean, in 2020, it was a little short, but he worked really hard on getting back and getting that extension and finishing, and the ball was coming out really well, so I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Martinez was still talking about that extension on Wednesday, when Sánchez’s name came up again in the manager’s daily press availability, and he was asked if he’s assessing things with the idea that the pitcher had a year off or judging him like any other pitcher?

“Obviously I know him,” Martinez said. “In 2020 we saw some things, but what I like about him now is that he’s got a lot of extension on his finish, on his release. And he was really good. He was throwing the ball well today. He threw a couple of really good fastballs, some cutters, but his changeup was really good, and like I said, it was more his extension. [In] 2020, it looked like he was cutting the ball off and not getting out there, and he said it was something he’s worked on, and not pitching for a year he said might have helped him a little bit, and his body feels great, it really does. So, he looked good today, so we’ll see where he’s at his next outing, but hopefully he can stay that way.”