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Washington Nationals news & notes: Patrick Corbin & coming up with an identity…

Notes and quotes on the Nationals’ left-handed veteran…

Patrick Corbin finished up the 2023 campaign (his 11th season in the majors, and the fifth year on his six-year/$140M deal with Washington) with his ERA at 5.20, a 5.28 FIP, 57 walks (2.85 BB/9), 124 strikeouts (6.20 K/9), a .293/.344/.481 line against, and 33 home runs allowed in 180 IP (1.65 HR/9).

“I think he has pitched better,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies late this past season. “I think his numbers do reflect that he’s pitched a little bit better.”

Corbin did make 30+ starts for the fourth time in four full seasons in the Nationals’ rotation. He did struggle again at times, of course, putting together some solid outings, but failing to find the form he showed in 2018 with the Diamondbacks and 2019 in his first season with the Nationals, when he helped the club win the 2019 World Series after signing as a free agent that winter.

“You know, the numbers don’t indicate that he did well,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said after Corbin’s final outing of the year, “... but he’s got more wins than a lot of other starting pitchers in the major leagues.”

“I could give him the ball every five days,” Martinez continued. “He works really hard. He works hard in-between his starts. The guy’s going to eat innings for you. I think this winter, the whole — he needs to come up with an identity for him, what he wants to do moving forward.”

“I still feel confident in my abilities,” Corbin told reporters late in the ‘23 campaign.

“I’m healthy. I’m good to end the season, and I think everyone here is looking forward to some time off and then getting ready to go again.”

His manager stressed, as he has often as Corbin’s struggled since 2019, the need to stay down in the zone and build off of what he has had success with along the way.

“When he gets the ball down he’s pretty good,” Martinez said. “We got to get him to understand that he’s got to get the ball down, and keep the ball down, use his changeup. His changeup is a good pitch. Slider was good. Overall, I thought, you look back and he pitched some tough games, kept us in a lot of games. So we’ll build off of that and hopefully he comes back stronger next year.”

Talking about a 34-year-old heading into his 12th season, coming off four years of struggles coming up with a new identity might seem like a stretch, but Martinez explained what that would entail.

“He’s got to understand that, hey, when he throws the ball down and uses his changeup, it makes everything else better,” the manager said. “It really does. His fastball, two-seamer down, everything works down and he gets a lot of weak contact down there, as we saw, and as soon as he gets the ball up the ball gets hit hard.”

If the message and coaching hasn’t had the desired effect to this point though, what are the chances he can turn things around at this point in his career?

“He’s still got good stuff,” Martinez said.

“We can see that by a lot of swings and misses, a lot of soft contact, but he’s got to trust it, he’s got to trust the process, and commit to it, and be convicted to it. Hopefully next year we’ll sit down with him again, and talk to him about where we feel he’s at and he can come back and give us another 150+ innings and do what he does.”

What Corbin has done over the course of his time in the nation’s capital is post up, taking the ball regularly even if the results haven’t been what anyone hoped for from him when he signed.

“He’s a professional,” Martinez said in mid-September, in discussing Corbin’s starts and his role in the clubhouse. “He’s going to take the ball every five days, when it doesn’t go so good, the next day you wouldn’t even know it with those guys. He pumps them up, he keeps them engaged. He’s been an unbelievable leader in that clubhouse, and the young pitchers have really taken to him, and they talk to him a lot about different things, because he’s been through it all.

“Obviously you guys know he came out of the bullpen for us in the World Series, so he knows a lot about this game and about pitching. I’m so proud of him, because you never hear him complain. When things go bad, he says, ‘I’ll be ready in five days,’ and he’s been that way since I’ve known him.”

Martinez believes Corbin can still make important and meaningful contributions to the club, and his manager said he has already done what he can to help his teammates.

“He’s been important already. He’s really taken those young guys in and talked to them about certain things: how to compete up here. He’s been really good. I’m proud of him. I said this even last year. But he comes and he takes the ball every five days and he does everything we ask him to do. So I hope that things will turn around for him, I really do, because he’s still got good stuff.”