Davey Martinez was happy with the early returns from Patrick Corbin as the lefty threw his first few bullpen sessions of the spring, coming off a 2021 campaign which saw the starter lead the National League in home runs allowed and finish second in overall hits allowed.
It did not go how Corbin or the Nationals wanted, as he finished up the third year of his 6-year/$140M deal with the club with a 5.82 ERA, a 5.41 FIP, 60 walks (3.15 BB/9), 143 Ks (7.50 K/9), and a rough .286/.345/.510 line against in 31 starts and 171 2⁄3 innings pitched.
“He threw a bullpen today,” Martinez said early in Spring Training, “and from what I’ve seen today, he kept everything down. 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.”
Rather than dwelling on what went wrong last year (and in 2020, when Corbin struggled in the follow-up to 2019’s World Series win), Martinez said he wanted the southpaw to simply move on from 2021 and focus on what he’s going to do in 2022.
“I think he’s going to have a year that he’s had in the past,” the manager said.
“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.”
In three years with the Nationals, Corbin now has a 4.47 ERA, a 4.34 FIP, 148 walks, and 441 Ks in 75 starts and 439 1⁄3 IP.
In the previous three seasons, before he signed on with the Nats, he had a 4.03 ERA, a 3.70 FIP, 175 walks, and 555 Ks in 102 games (89 starts) and 545 1⁄3 IP.
“You know, when I saw Patrick I told him hey, it’s a fresh start for him in 2022,” his manager reiterated the day after first watching him throw last week.
“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.”
And when he was successful, the skipper stressed, he was down in the zone, consistently, and that’s what they want to see.
“It’s keeping the ball down,” he reiterated. “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.”
How/why did he get away from what had worked previously?
“A lot of times we get caught up in the whole analytics about we got to throw a pitch up,” Martinez said, “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.”
“Sometimes when you have a couple starts where you struggle and you’re looking at those things a little too much, it’s like, ‘Hey, you got to pitch up more,’” Corbin told reporters last week, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty.
“And it’s kind of … not everyone is like that. Not everyone can do that or has the stuff for that.”
“He wants to get back to that,” Martinez said of working down in the zone, “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.”
From what Corbin had to say last week, it sounded like he got the message about working down in the zone and putting his struggles behind him.
“Looking back on last year and the year before, I think I definitely struggled for sure, and it’s something that I just want to forget and throw away,” Corbin told the WaPost’s Dougherty.
“Honestly, I’m here, I feel good, and I know what I’m capable of doing. So I’m not really thinking about that.”
In his first outing in Grapefruit League action this spring, Corbin threw four scoreless, and gave up just three hits, striking out four Miami Marlins’ batters in a 57-pitch effort in which he threw 34 strikes.
Patrick Corbin through four scoreless in Jupiter on 57 pitches. And after working up in the zone in the first, he's mostly been at or below the bottom of the zone since, which the Nationals are hammering as the key to getting him right.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 23, 2022
Dave Martinez keeps pointing to Patrick Corbin's start in CIN last September as the template for him getting back to good results. How that night (99 pitches on the left) compared to today (57 on the right): pic.twitter.com/9UBP8H7h5Q— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 23, 2022
Corbin ends up going 4 scoreless on 57 pitches, 34 strikes. For what it's worth, he's currently on a 5-day schedule that coincides with Opening Day. https://t.co/OvrJJbFPZS— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 23, 2022