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Washington Nationals’ Patrick Corbin Project continues...

They’re still trying to fix the left-handed start, because the Nationals need Patrick Corbin to produce as part of the big league rotation...

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Corbin’s second 23-of-an-inning outing in three starts, and his seven-start winless streak, over which he’d gone (0-6) with a 9.73 ERA, a 5.66 FIP, and a brutal .388/.438/.605 line against in 28 23 IP, convinced the Nationals, and Washington skipper Davey Martinez, they had to do something to try to get him back on track, especially considering he has a couple years and a lot of money ($59M-ish) left on the 6-year/$140M deal he signed with the Nationals in 2018.

“Well, the last few outings have been basically the same, really,” Martinez explained.

“He can’t finish hitters, his location, his misses. I feel bad. I mean he’s going out there and believe me he’s not trying to miss his location.

“He’s trying to get outs and he’s just not finishing hitters.”

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With the same results, however, in spite of the work the Nationals and Corbin have done, it was time for a break, and the Nats’ skipper decided to skip a start and hold the left-hander back for more work between outings before sending out again.

“For me, it is a tough decision, because he’s very competitive. And he takes the ball every five days,” Martinez explained.

“He’s trying to sort some things out, and some days he looks really, really good. And the last few outings, he couldn’t get out of the first inning.”

“Regardless of what anybody thinks,” he added, “[Corbin is] going to be one of our starters next year and the year after that. We’ve got to get him better.”

“I just think that it’s so difficult to work on things during the season because you’re always in constant preparation mode for your next start,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies when asked about skipping a start.

“But I think this will give him a little time to step back, we can really dive into the video and the film and give him a chance to do a little tweaking with our pitching people in a less-competitive venue where he can pitch in the bullpen and work on some things and try to tweak his delivery a little bit and get back on track where we need him to be.”

The frustrating issue, as Corbin’s struggled over the last three seasons (after helping the Nationals win the World Series in the first year of his deal in 2019), is he’s not far removed from being a competitive big league starter, and he’s proven to be durable, he’s worked trying to turn things around, the stuff is there when they look at the analytics, but it’s not working.

“He takes the ball every five days, and when things don’t go right, he faces the media like the professional that he is,” Rizzo added, “and this guy has had a lot of success in his career, he’s been in the Top 10 in Cy Young [voting] twice in his career, and we all know what he did in 2019, and 2018 for that matter, with the D-backs, and he knows that he’s a healthy pitcher and he’s way better than this and he’s got to figure out a way to get back to where he has been at in the past and to take this into the future.”

Over the weekend, Martinez confirmed he would move Corbin back into the starting mix.

“He threw a bullpen today, and he threw the ball exceptionally well, so it was good to see. So yeah, he’ll start on Tuesday.”

Before Tuesday’s outing, Martinez talked about the plan going forward with Corbin. Was it a case of the lefty auditioning for further starts? Was he back in the rotation for good the rest of the way?

“You know, I haven’t even thought about — he’s our starting pitcher,” Martinez said.

“He has been all year. What I do know is, like I said, he threw the ball well in his last two bullpens, and I hope that he can take that into the game today, and compete.

“And now all of a sudden he’s got to face hitters, but I liked where he was at with all his stuff, and him working with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, so we’ll see how he does today.

“I just want him to go out today and just focus on today, don’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future, just worry about today.”

What did Martinez like from what he saw in Corbin’s bullpens?

“He was keeping the ball down for the most part, slider had a little bit more bite, so we’re hoping that he continues to do that today, but the biggest thing is he’s got a lot of movement on his fastball when the balls are down, we want him to keep the ball down.”

They did suggest a few mechanical adjustments Corbin tried to implement between starts.

“We actually — he started tilting, leaning, throwing more downhill, to get him to throw the ball down, so like I said, hopefully he can do that, and repeat that, every pitch today.”

Corbin ended up giving up four runs on six hits and two walks, surrendering a home run, and striking out three batters in a 97-pitch, six-inning outing in which he threw 58% sinkers, collecting 11 swinging and 11 called strikes overall on the night, with seven whiffs on his sinker (4) and slider (3), and three on his changeup, and six called strikes on his sinker, and five on his slider.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“I thought Corbin threw the ball a lot better,” Martinez said after a 7-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs. “For the most part he kept us in the game there. He threw the ball better, he threw a lot more changeups, some good ones, and like I said, he’s just got to keep working on getting the ball down, when he’s down, he was effective, a couple balls he left up, he got hit, but that was way better. I mean, he was throwing downhill, ball was coming out good, so that was good.”

“I felt good out there,” Corbin said in his own post game media scrum, “… if anything I think just getting a little time away from it, and got to throw a couple bullpens, felt good, but maybe just a couple mistakes, but I think overall made some quality pitches, and I felt good mixing it up.”

The brief break, he said, did help.

“I think just kind of the way things have been going, just kind of take a break from going out there every fifth day, maybe just try to think about some things, and I thought getting off the mound a couple times could help a little it, but I think if anything, that was the main thing that helped.

“It was good to get back out there, get through six, and give us a chance to win there.”

“Mechanically I felt pretty good,” Corbin added at another point. “It was more so just location, keeping the ball down. I think the times today I did get in trouble were on a couple balls that were left up. But I think for the most part, we were down in the zone. Used the changeup well, and the breaking ball.”

“He gave us some length, he gave us a chance to win the game,” Rizzo said in this week’s visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies. “I’m sure he’s still not thrilled with the outing, he gave up four runs and walked a couple of guys, but you know, again, he went six and gave our bullpen a little blow, and we were in the game when we left, and ended up tying it and losing in extra innings, but yeah, I think that he would say he made small progress, and I know that with the skipped start they worked hard in the bullpen, kind of going over video and tweaking his delivery, and hand placement and that type of thing, so he’s still working hard on it and he’s expecting to improve on the six innings and four runs that he did last night.”

Asked about Corbin’s stuff at this point, if his velocity has dipped, or what’s been different in 2022 as opposed to previous seasons, Rizzo said what he’s been saying, the stuff is there.

“There has not been a velocity dip,” he explained. “He’s really on close to the pace with his fastball and with his slider in velocity, and there’s been a little spin rate decrease and decline, but as far as pure velocity, his fastball is right in the range where it was in ‘18-’19.”

And the thinking on the decrease/decline in spin rate?

“I don’t know if it’s a hand placement,” Rizzo said, “that’s kind of what they’re working on. They’ve taken away the apparatus for the contact to the baseball, the sticky stuff type of thing, so that may have some impact, but it’s — I think with Patrick we’re trying to work on grip and finger placement on the ball and that type of thing, and like I said, working extremely hard and trying to get better.”