In the fourth year of his six-year/$140M deal in Washington, D.C., southpaw Patrick Corbin went (6-19) overall for the Nationals in 2022, with a 6.31 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 49 walks (2.89 BB/9), 128 strikeouts (7.55 K/9), and a .321/.374/.513 line against in 31 starts and 152 2⁄3 innings. He will be the Opening Day starter in the nation’s capital next Thursday afternoon for the start of his fifth season with the club.
Corbin and the Nats are hoping the 33-year-old lefty will bounce back this year, after three sub-par years following a strong run with the 2019 World Series champions in his first year with the team.
“He has come to Spring Training a different guy,” Corbin’s manager Dave Martinez, said this week, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.
“He has a lot of confidence. He knows he can do this. He has had success before. He wants to put everything in the last two years behind him and just move forward. [We want him] to focus on getting one out, at all cost. Get the ball on the ground. Don’t worry about striking guys out. And that’s what he has been doing.”
“I think that he’s a different pitcher than he was in ‘17, ‘18, ‘19,” GM Mike Rizzo said earlier this spring of the pitcher he signed as a free agent, following a breakout year for Corbin in ‘18 in Arizona.
“He struck out a lot more guys. He’s more of a pitch-to-contact guy right now with the ability to strike guys out when he needs to, but I just think that he’s got to stay within himself. He’s got to believe in his stuff still. I think he’s got to pound the strike zone, you’ve heard me say it over the last two years. He’s got to pitch in, he’s got to pitch aggressive, and he’s got to get quicker contact, and, with that, you have an infield that is reliable and can pick the ball up, I think [it] will help him, but the onus is on him to pitch better and to utilize his stuff and trust his stuff again like he did when he was in the Cy Young voting a couple of years in a row.”
Corbin finished 5th in voting for the NL Cy Young in 2018, and 11th in 2019, but his struggles over the last few seasons make those years seem further in the past.
In naming Corbin his starter for the season opener next week, his manager said he’s seen the left-hander put in the work to set himself up for a bounce-back campaign, and he has Martinez’s confidence going into his fifth season with the Nationals.
“I’ve said this before: I’ve never gotten down on Patrick,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN writer Mark Zuckerman. “We know what he can do at any given time. He worked really hard over the winter, came to Spring Training in great shape, had a plan, and he’s been pitching well. So he’s going to get the ball Opening Day.”
Corbin doesn’t take the honor of starting things off for the Nationals lightly.
“It’s an honor for Davey to allow me to take the ball, go out there and show what I can do,” he said.
“Opening Day is a very special day for everybody. A lot of excitement. Everybody’s 0-0, everyone has the same goal to win it all. No better way to start than to go out there.”
It’s the start of Corbin’s 11th big league season (the 12th season since he debuted, with one year off as he recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2014), and he said he knows how rare these sort of opportunities are for pitchers.
“I think this is my 12th season going in. It seems like I just got called up yesterday,” Corbin said.
“It’s flown by. You try to cherish these moments and really appreciate them. They don’t come by too often.”
It’s the second consecutive Opening Day nod for Corbin, who gave up five hits and two runs in four innings against the New York Mets on April 7th last season.
This time he’ll take on the Atlanta Braves in Nationals Park in Game 1 of 162 next week.