MIAMI – Patrick Corbin won’t make his next scheduled start while he waits for his back to heal, and the Nationals haven’t decided yet if he’ll return to make one final start before the season ends.
Corbin, who had to depart Tuesday night’s start in Atlanta in the first inning after tweaking his back, has been able to play catch on flat ground since then. But he has not yet thrown off a mound, and until he’s able to do that the club won’t have him start a game.
“At this point, because he’s not going to be able to throw a bullpen, we might skip him,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re undecided who’s going to pitch in his spot, but when we get back home we’ll have (Cory) Abbott, (Paolo) Espino and TBD.”
The Nationals have five other healthy starters, so they can proceed without Corbin if they need. Josiah Gray could pitch on normal rest Wednesday against the Braves, though Martinez admitted after Friday night’s start the right-hander could still be shut down due to his career-high workload this season.
The real issue comes Saturday, when the Nats are scheduled to face the Phillies in a day-night doubleheader. MacKenzie Gore, who is slated to make his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Monday, could come off the injured list to start one of those games. If not, the team would need to find someone else (or go with Corbin).
“We’ll see. We’ve got seven games coming up at home. A doubleheader. So we’ll see how everything plays out,” Martinez said. “My focus is to try to get (Erick) Fedde through the day today, and then we’ll go from there. But I want to make sure Corbin’s OK and that he has no limitations when he goes out to pitch again.”
Though it had no bearing on their decision, the plan to skip Corbin’s next turn will ensure he doesn’t become Major League Baseball’s first 20-game loser since the Tigers’ Mike Maroth in 2003. Corbin currently has 18 losses, so at worst he would finish with 19 if he makes one more start and takes the loss.
Corbin has insisted all along he’s not concerned with his won-loss record and wants to make as many starts as he can the rest of the season. He actually has shown considerable improvement over the last month, posting a 2.84 ERA in six starts since Aug. 21.