One of the most closely-monitored position battles in the camp of the Arizona Diamondbacks this Spring Training is that of the fifth starter’s spot. The trio of Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado were the starting pitchers in each of the D’backs’ first three games thus far in Cactus League play. Based off the initial outings by all three, it is Corbin who surged ahead with two shutout innings and four strikeouts in Sunday’s 8-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies. On Saturday, Skaggs was a victim of his own shoddy fielding throwing a ball away while surrendering four runs, two of them earned, in 1 and 2/3 innings of work. Delagdo had the roughest start of the three on Monday getting battered around for five runs (four earned) on six hits in just an inning of work.
Manager Kirk Gibson‘s and pitching coach Charles Nagy‘s main goal this Spring is emphasizing the importance of commanding the strike zone. Delgado admitted to Steve Gilbert at mlb.com that he was leaving the ball up in the zone a little too much but felt fine physically. He will get his chance to redeem himself this coming Saturday when he enters from the bullpen in place of Wade Miley. With the Snakes’ preaching better defensive play, Skaggs’ botched throw to shortstop Willie Bloomquist trying to get a force play at second base did not help his cause. Of course, Gerardo Parra allowing that same ball to get by him didn’t make things better, either. That comedy of an error spotted the Rockies an early 2-0 lead. The young lefty did settle down a bit, not walking anyone and striking out two hitters before departing in the second inning. Corbin, perhaps the front-runner heading into the competition made the biggest positive impression. In addition to his four strikeouts, he allowed only one hit while walking a batter. His fastball and slider were on point and Corbin has said that he feels more relaxed this Spring as opposed to the last one when he felt he had something to prove. His 22 appearances (17 of them starts) with Arizona in 2012 could help him immensely as the battle continues over the next four or five weeks.
It is only one appearance by each pitcher but the early edge goes to Corbin. However, with Spring Training operating differently this year because of the World Baseball Classic, each outing will be critical for the evaluation process. Regardless of who gets choosen to be the number five, the D’backs are in a position most teams would envy. It is not two journeymen and an older Minor Leaguer battling for the spot. It is three young pitchers, all of them younger than 24 in a healthy competition where the two guys who don’t make the cut still have bright futures ahead of them either in Arizona or somewhere else. May the best man win.
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