Over the final weekend of the 2022 season, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo gave the lefty he signed to a 6-year/$140M deal before the 2019 campaign a vote of confidence. He told reporters in the nation’s capital he saw Patrick Corbin as a starter in 2023, and said he expected the 33-year-old southpaw to build on a few strong starts late in the ‘22 campaign and find a way to be effective in the fifth year of his six-year deal in D.C.
“I see him as a starter for us next year,” Rizzo said of the starter who finished (6-19) 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 pitched, struggling for a third straight season after helping the club win the World Series in the first year of his deal in 2019.
“He takes the ball every fifth day,” the GM continued. “His stuff was good, his velocity on his fastball was good, his spin rate was good. I think his last 7-8 starts were more indicative of who he’s going to be next year than his previous starts. I think that the defense we put behind him is going to help improve his bottom line next year, but I give the guy credit. He answered the questions every five days, he took the ball every five days, and he’s a pro. And I think that he’s going to come back with a little chip on his shoulder next year and try to prove a lot of naysayers wrong, and I think that he’ll get closer to the 2018-19 Patrick Corbin that we’ve seen in the past.”
“If we can get him to continue to do what he did over the last 5-6 starts, he’ll keep us in the games, and I know he’s going to do that,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said late last season.
When he spoke at the Winter Meetings, Martinez empathized with his starter’s plight, telling reporters he considered moving Corbin to the bullpen at one point last season, but did not do it in the end.
“Look, this guy endured a lot last year, and the fact that he took the ball every five days — I talked to him a lot about doing different things with him, put him in the bullpen maybe, and he wanted the ball. And I appreciate that from him,” Martinez said.
“Right now he’s still our guy,” the manager continued, “and I expect him to come next year pitching the way he pitched the last month of the season.”
Rizzo reiterated at the start of Spring Training 2023 his belief that a better defensive club in the nation’s capital will benefit Corbin (and the rest of the Nationals’ pitchers).
“I think that he’s a different pitcher than he was in ‘17, ‘18, ‘19,” Rizzo explained. “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.
“Again, I give him credit, he takes the ball every game, sits at his locker to answer questions from you guys every day. He’s a true pro. He’s giving to the young players, and that’s all on the plus side for him, but he’s got to perform better.”
Corbin’s 210 hits allowed in 2022 were the most amongst major league starters, as were his 107 runs allowed, and 19 losses, so yes, he’s obviously got to perform better.
Opposing hitters put up a .310 AVG on his sinker, which he threw 43.5% of the time in 2022, a .309 AVG on his slider (29.4%), a .346 AVG on his 4-seamer (18.8%), and a .380 AVG on his changeup (8.3%).
In five starts this spring, Corbin gave up 21 hits, 10 runs (9 ER), and just two walks in 18 IP, in which he struck out 15, with opposing hitters posting a combined .288 AVG.
His manager named Corbin the Opening Day starter for the second straight year last week, going with Corbin over one of the next-generational Nationals’ young starters like a Josiah Gray or MacKenzie Gore.
“He’s a veteran guy,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Byron Kerr.
“He’s done it before. Towards the end of spring, he really threw the ball well. He really did.”
Martinez stressed he’s had Corbin’s back all along, acknowledging his struggles, and trying to help him find answers over the past few seasons.
“I’ve said this before: I’ve never gotten down on Patrick,” Martinez said, as quoted on MASN.
“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, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, said it meant a lot to him to get the ball for the season opener against Atlanta (1:05 PM ET today in Nationals Park).
“It’s an honor for Davey to allow me to take the ball, go out there and show what I can do,” Corbin 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.”
“We had a lot of conversations [about] putting everything that has happened behind him, in the past,” Martinez said, “and let’s move forward and let’s start fresh. And he’s done that.”