Patrick Corbin will be a major factor in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation this year. There are high expectations for Corbin to perform at an elite level, alongside the recent offseason acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. The major question is whether or not Corbin will be limited by an innings restriction after returning from Tommy John surgery.
Chip Hale has recently stated that Corbin will be ready to go without curbing his time on the mound, although I’m not sure that this stance will hold up throughout the entirety of the 2016 season. This is mainly because Corbin only threw 102 innings in the major and minor leagues last year, and a true horse is expected to throw at or near 200 frames. 100 innings is a major jump for a pitcher with previous arm injuries. There is always a large task at hand in trying to ensure healthy players throughout a 6 month regular season.
The Diamondbacks’ starting pitching depth will decidedly play a major role in Hale’s decision if he and the organization were to choose to go the conservative route. Assuming Robbie Ray and Ruby de la Rosa are to fill out the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation, long time prospect Archie Bradley will most likely to be the top candidate in the next-man-up role after an exciting 2015 early showing, before being sidelined by a line drive to the face, followed by a mid-season shoulder strain. Other choices would include, but not limited to: Zack Godley who impressed the D-backs in his MLB debut with a 5-1 record in 9 games pitched (6 starts), recent trade acquisition Tyler Wagner, 2013 first-round pick Braden Shipley, and long-shot free agent Cuban signee Yoan Lopez.
38 players since the 2006 Major League Baseball season have undergone Tommy John. 35 of these players have been pitchers, due to the incredible strain that is put on their elbows while throwing from the mound. Teams have been handling their Tommy John patients, for the most part, with a conservative stance in order to try and ensure a healthy recovery since this procedure’s recent prevalence.
There is also evidence in justification to the contrary stance, which is that an innings limit is not as in-game pitch count limits. This standpoint has been recently vindicated somewhat by looking at Mets ace Matt Harvey, who returned after missing the entire 2015 campaign due to Tommy John surgery. Harvey was frequently limited to a pitch count at or near the 100 pitch mark, but still threw 216 exceptional innings to the tune of a 2.71 earned run average in 189.1 frames during the regular season, while adding 26.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA during the post season.
The D-backs have to make some serious decisions in order to compete for the NL West crown. In my opinion, whether Chip Hale and the Diamondbacks brass were to choose a soft innings cap or a hard pitch count cap, we are almost guaranteed to see some type of limit put into place regarding Patrick Corbin’s 2016 campaign.