“I know that the last couple years were terrible,” Patrick Corbin told reporters, as quoted on MLB.com, after his 2022 Grapefruit League debut last week.
“I’ve moved past it, and I feel good about where I’m at,” the 32-year-old left-hander added.
In three years in Washington, D.C. Corbin, (who signed a 6-year/$140M free agent contract with the Nationals in the winter of 2018-19), now has a 4.47 ERA, a 4.34 FIP, 148 walks, and 441 Ks in 75 starts and 439 1⁄3 IP, with a 5.50 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 78 walks, and 203 Ks in the last two seasons, after he put up a 3.25 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 70 walks, and 238 Ks in 33 starts and a total of 202 IP in the first year of his contract in 2019.
“I don’t want him to think about — we all know that things didn’t go well for him last year,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said early in Spring Training, “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.”
For the southpaw, who struggled to find a fix for what was ailing him the past two seasons, the goal this spring has been trying to get back to normal, and finding that ‘19 form, while taking what he can from the last two years.
“I think we can learn from what happened and move forward,” Corbin told reporters last week, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.
“I know what I’m capable of doing out there, and I really forgot kind of how those last two seasons went. Hopefully now, we can just kind of get on a normal schedule, have things back to normal and be able to go out there and compete like I love to do.”
Getting back to what worked earlier in his career, he said, echoing his skipper’s comments, is the goal.
“As simple as it is, I’m just trying to get back to what I’ve done well for those many years and commanding the fastball, throwing both sides of the plate with that, and using my slider off of that,” Corbin explained.
“We need to get him back to the form we know he can be,” his manager added, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“I’m watching him down here,” Martinez continued, “... and he’s working hard, and throwing the ball well.”
Start No. 2 this spring was another step forward. He went up against the Nationals’ NL East rivals from Miami on Monday afternoon.
Corbin erased a one-out walk in the first, dialing up an inning-ending 5-4-3 (Maikel Franco to César Hernández to Josh Bell) to get out of a relatively quick, 15-pitch top of the inning, and he retired the side in order in a nine-pitch second.
A botched play on a bunt by Roman Quinn with one out in the third was followed by a 1-3-6 pickoff play which took another runner off the basepaths, and a swinging K on an 0-2 slider got Corbin out No. 3 of a six-pitch frame, and K No. 3 from nine Marlins’ batters he faced in three scoreless and hitless.
After Corbin tossed one past Bell on the bunt in the third, it was Bell who bobbled a one-out grounder toward first in the top of the fourth inning, then tried to get a rushed throw to the covering pitcher but was wide of the bag. Joey Wendle, who reached base on the E:3, took third on an opposite field single on a 2-0 fastball low and in to Garrett Cooper, but a 3-2 fastball (down the pipe) to Brian Anderson was called strike three for out No. 2, and Corbin’s 4th K, and he battled back from 3-0 against Jazz Chisholm, Jr., but gave up an infield single that scored Miami’s first run, 1-0 Fish.
Jon Berti stepped in next and hit a hanging, first-pitch slider out to left for a 3-run blast and a 4-0 Marlins’ lead.
Corbin returned to the mound in the fifth, at 58 pitches, and retired the first two batters he faced, picking up his fifth K, but his second walk of the game extended him to a total of 71 pitches, and he got up to 75 pitches overall before picking up out No. 3 on his sixth K of the game.
“I felt really good all day,” Corbin said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Bill Ladson after the game.
“Even on some of the pitches — it was just heaters in — maybe I was a little off. But I was consistently hitting it. I thought the ball was coming out pretty good. The fourth [inning], it was good to get the pitch count up a little bit, throw an extended inning there and bounce back with a clean fifth inning.”
“We like where he’s at right now,” Martinez told reporters. “He likes where he’s at right now.”