Arizona Diamondbacks: How motivated is Patrick Corbin by his contract year?

According to manager Torey Lovullo, lefty Patrick Corbin is currently "locked in." (Ralph Fresco / Getty Images)
According to manager Torey Lovullo, lefty Patrick Corbin is currently "locked in." (Ralph Fresco / Getty Images) /

For the second time in his career, lefty Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks is off to a 4-0 start.

Given the physical execution, there may be a hidden reason why lefty Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks elevated his game. Aside from that his breaking pitches have shown depth and Corbin has perfected the ability to throw different kinds of breaking pitches for strikes, there could be a subtle force at work.

Beyond the visible performance, Corbin is now in his contract year, and motivation for a big payday could be a driving force. Given Patrick Corbin’s production over the first month of the season, there is every reason to believe that the lefty out of Clay, N. Y. may be driven by the potential of a very lucrative contract.

Following another solid effort Sunday afternoon in Chase Field against the San Diego Padres, Corbin went strong six innings and surrendered two runs. That equaled the most allowed in his five starts this season. In gaining a 4-2 over the Padres before 31,061 Sunday afternoon, Corbin ran his undefeated record to 4-0 and now sports a tidy 1.89 ERA. Afterward, Corbin told Call to the Pen that while the reality of the contract year is present, that’s not his immediate focus.

"“I’ve always taken pride in working hard, so I’d think the same way whether it was anything,” he said. “So, I’ll continue to work hard and make sure I’m ready to go each start. You try and prepare for the next start, I still have 20 something of these left, whatever, 30 left. Still, it’s a long way to go.”"

In his final reason before free agency, Corbin signed a one-year deal with Arizona for a reported $7.5 million for 2018 and turns 29 years-old this July 19. During the last off-season, the New York Yankees, in particular, inquired about Corbin, but the Arizona Diamondbacks rejected any overture.

Another reason, but not quite as dramatic nor telling, is the confidence manage Torey Lovullo has placed. Tapped as the Arizona Diamondbacks opening day pitcher, Corbin took that honor four years after the original one was bestowed. That’s because Corbin was set to open the 2014 season in Sydney, Australia against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but developed a ligament damage to his pitching elbow and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery.

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If not for a mistake on his part Sunday, Corbin would have continued his shutout string. In the Padres sixth and two out, Corbin struck out Wil Myers but the third strike eluded catcher Jeff Mathis for a wild pitch. Carlos Villanueva then drilled a 0-2 pitch over the right-field fence for the only runs Corbin allowed.

With the win, Corbin went to 4-0 for the second time in his career. In 2013, he reeled off nine straight at the beginning of that season before losing. Coming into play Monday, he is tied with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (4-1) in NL wins and joins the Red Sox’ Rick Porcello as the only pitchers currently in the majors with 4-0 records.

All of which clearly caught the attention of Lovullo, who told Call to the Pen that Corbin, right now, is “locked in.”

"“(Patrick) has worked extremely hard for this moment,” he said. “Nothing seems to get him down and that’s his strength. He has an easy demeanor and helps give him a strong mound presence.”"

Another series win …

With the series victory over the Padres Sunday, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the first team in 15 years to open the season with seven straight series victories. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2003 Giants was the last team to accomplish that feat.

 Getting hot …

After a slow start, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s bat is beginning to smoke. Ending with Sunday’s win over San Diego, the perennial All-Star is hitting .407 (17-for-42) over his previous 12 games. That includes seven walks, four doubles, a triple, four homers and nine RBIs.

Coming into Tuesday’s game with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Goldschmidt is hitting .278 and tied with A. J. Pollock (11) for second in club RBIs. Shortstop Nick Ahmed tops the club with 16 RBIs.

From the training room …

Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. enters an important phase of his recovery. On the DL since March 26 with a right pectoral strain, Souza began throwing at a distance on Sunday and tested his injured shoulder. While he retains the ability to swing the bat and run, throwing from the outfield remains hindered.

Manager Torey Lovullo promised an assessment of Souza’s condition in the next few days.

Elsewhere … third baseman Jake Lamb may have suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from a sore right shoulder. During the recently-completed San Diego series, Lamb reported irritation and underwent an MRI. The result showed the development of tendonitis and inflammation. Lamb will be further evaluated at mid-week and will not make the current east coast trip. To date, Lamb has appeared in only four games and is hitting .278 (5-for-18) with no homers and 5 RBIs.

On the road again …

The Arizona Diamondbacks now embarked on a six-game trip. The journey begins Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

Next: Intangibles of trust and confidence guide Lovullo

Lefty Robbie Ray (2-0. 4.98 ERA) opens the trip against right-hander Vince Velasquez (1-2, 3.80). In the middle game, look for Zack Greinke (2-1, 4.13) to face veteran Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.04). In the series finale Thursday afternoon, it’s Matt Koch (0-0, 1.13) taking on righty Ben Lively (0-1, 4.64). Then, it’s on to Washington and three with the Nationals. The Arizona Diamondbacks return home April 30 to start a stretch where they play 14 of their following 16 games at home.