Nats’ Corbin’s belief not dimmed by most losses in majors

WASHINGTON (AP) — No major league pitcher took more losses in 2022 than Patrick Corbin, with 19. And none accumulated more Ls in 2021 than Corbin did, with 16. Last season’s ERA for the Washington Nationals left-hander was 6.31. A year earlier? 5.82.

Hard not to notice those numbers. Hard not to comment on them. Corbin is all too aware.

“Doesn’t really matter what other people are saying,” he said Tuesday in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park before Washington beat the New York Yankees 3-0 in an exhibition finale. “I just kind of believe in myself and what I’ve done.”

That includes, most notably, a starring role as a starter and reliever as the Nationals won the 2019 World Series championship. If that seems as if it was forever ago, it’s probably because it is, in some ways, for a franchise that has finished last in the NL East every year since and was 55-107 in 2022.

When the Nationals host the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, there will be only two players on Washington’s 26-man roster who were around for the title four years ago: Corbin and center fielder Victor Robles.

On the mound will be Corbin, a 33-year-old in the fifth season of a six-year, $140 million contract that was earned, at least in part, by being an NL All-Star with a 3.15 ERA for Arizona in 2018. It’s his second consecutive opening day start for a rotation currently missing World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and top prospect Cade Cavalli because of injuries.

“Look, he’s a veteran guy. He’s done it before. Toward the end of spring, he really threw the ball really well. He really did,” manager Dave Martinez said about Corbin. “We had a lot of conversations about putting everything that’s happened behind him. In the past. Let’s move forward. Let’s start fresh.”

One thing that never changed about Corbin was an ability to be ready for every start. He made 32 in 2017, 33 apiece in 2018 and 2019, 31 apiece in 2021 and 2022.

Those numbers are appreciated by any manager, even if the other numbers associated with Corbin lately were not ideal.

“He is not a very demonstrative type of person, but it bothered him. He would be the first one to tell you that he didn’t perform up to his expectations,” pitching coach Jim Hickey said. “But he never pointed fingers or made excuses. And give him credit: He took the ball every five days and he never, ever backed down. He never wanted out of a ballgame. Hopefully things go a little bit better for him this year — and I think they will.”

Corbin’s success was based on a top-notch slider paired with his fastball. He worked this spring on improving both of those pitches — adding more shape to his slider, keeping his fastball down — and mixing in a changeup more frequently.

“When things are going well, sometimes you feel you can do nothing wrong and you just go out there and pitch. And sometimes when things aren’t going well, you might feel good or sometimes not, but you’re always kind of searching or trying to find a way to turn it around. Maybe that was the case,” he said. “We’ve cleaned up some things. Sometimes you just have to simplify it, get back to what you’re good at, get back to what you’ve had success at. For me, that’s my slider.”

MAKING DECISIONS

Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes, who allowed one unearned run in four innings Tuesday in his third exhibition start, is on track to begin the season in the rotation. … After the game, manager Aaron Boone said New York is sending RHP Greg Weissert, RHP Ian Hamilton and OF Willie Calhoun to the minors, with OFs Estevan Florial and Rafael Ortega awaiting a decision on the final roster. … RHP Josiah Gray will start Game 2 for Washington against Atlanta on Saturday, followed by LHP MacKenzie Gore on Sunday. RHP Trevor Williams will pitch Monday night to open a series against visiting Tampa Bay. … 1B Matt Adams will report to Triple-A Rochester after being told he would not make Washington’s opening day roster.

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