SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The wait is over. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo announced Saturday that Patrick Corbin will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day against the Rockies.
Robbie Ray was among the top candidates to take the hill on March 29, but the two pitchers’ schedules were among the factors that led to Corbin getting the nod for Thursday.
“Robbie was a tremendous candidate [to start Opening Day], we knew that,” Lovullo said. “But I think you guys were counting the five days and separation between those starts. He was just a day off. We could’ve maneuvered a little bit, but Robbie is in the middle of his process and we don’t want to change his process. And we want to keep him on his path that he had created before Zack [Greinke] got hurt.”
Corbin pitched on Friday night against the Indians, while Ray pitched on Tuesday, putting him on track to throw on Sunday, and then again this upcoming Friday in the second game of the regular season.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after the presumed Opening Day starter, Greinke, exited a spring start after one inning with tightness in his right groin. Days later, it became less likely that Greinke be ready for the opener as the team delayed his next bullpen and, consequently, his preparation schedule.
Corbin, 28, enters his seventh season in the major leagues, including the 2014 season that he missed entirely due to Tommy John surgery. He started 32 games last year — tied for a career-high — throwing 189.2 innings (second-most of his career) with a 4.03 ERA and 1.418 WHIP. He struck out 178 hitters to go with 61 walks.
The left-hander was supposed to make his first career Opening Day start in 2014 until the elbow injury kept him out for more than a season.
“Just glad this time, I’m ready to go, healthy and be ready to go out there and try to get us off to a good start,” Corbin said. “I’m just excited and I’m honored to go out there. I feel well-prepared and ready to go, got all my work in I needed to this spring, and just really, really excited to get out there and get things going.”
In three starts this spring, Corbin has pitched 11 innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) for a 4.91 ERA with eight strikeouts and five walks. In his latest start, Corbin went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks to go with three punchouts.
The year before he got hurt, he pitched a career-high 208.1 innings, going 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and making the NL All-Star team.
“[Lovullo] brought up 2014, too, and how that year it didn’t really happen for me,” Corbin said. “When I threw back then, I just didn’t feel — I thought maybe something could’ve been wrong. This time I felt good, so I knew it was a different story. Everything’s healthy, ready to go. I feel great.”
Lovullo said Friday that it took time to name a new Opening Day starter because the injury to Greinke had changed the team’s plan for its starters and how their throwing schedules lined up with the opener.
He also said Robbie Ray will start game two on Friday. That makes for two consecutive left-handers against a high-powered Colorado offense, though Lovullo said the back-to-back left-handers wasn’t a concern.
From there, Lovullo wouldn’t say who would start in game three, saying they would have to wait and see how to proceed with Greinke.
Corbin will likely go up against Rockies righty Jon Gray, the 26-year-old who was the third overall pick in the 2013 draft. Gray threw 20 starts last season with a career-best 3.67 ERA before going on to pitch in the NL Wild Card game against Arizona. He threw just 1.1 innings at Chase Field in that game, allowing four earned runs.
“I told him in a really informal setting,” Lovullo said. “He was getting some work done on the training table and I just kind of leaned over and I said, ‘congratulations.’ I told him basically what I outlined with you guys: ‘That’s a lot of hard work and dedication that got you back to this moment.’
“Patrick is a very neutral guy, and he takes thing in stride very very well, but I saw a smile break out. It was a good moment for him and it was good for me to see.”