CHICAGO – The Nationals will skip over Patrick Corbin’s next turn through the rotation but do plan to continue starting the struggling left-hander once he has a chance to work on a few things over the weekend.
Manager Davey Martinez said the club will use the off-day between this road series against the Cubs and the upcoming home series against the Padres to bypass Corbin’s turn in the rotation. He would then return to start Tuesday against the Cubs in D.C.
“For me, it is a tough decision, because he’s very competitive,” Martinez said. “And he takes the ball every five days. He’s trying to sort some things out, and some days he looks really, really good. And the last few outings, he couldn’t get out of the first inning.”
Three consecutive seasons of declining performance reached a low point Saturday in Philadelphia, when Corbin failed to record three outs for the second time in three starts. He currently owns a 4-16 record and 7.02 ERA, both the loss total and ERA figure worst in the majors.
Since earning Cy Young Award votes and helping the Nationals win the World Series in the first year of his six-year, $140 million contract, the lefty has gone 15-39 with a 5.98 ERA and 1.599 WHIP, making him statistically the worst starting pitcher in the big leagues over a three-year span.
With two more years on his contract, Corbin has been afforded far more rope than almost any other pitcher in his situation would be granted. Even in this case, Martinez all but insisted the club doesn’t plan to move him out of the rotation for the remainder of this season or heading into the 2023 season.
“Because regardless of what anybody thinks, he’s going to be one of our starters next year and the year after that,” the manager said. “We’ve got to get him better.”
The Nationals hope this mini break will help that process. The plan is for Corbin to throw an “extended” bullpen session this weekend, working with pitching coach Jim Hickey, then another light bullpen session after that before he returns to start Tuesday against the Cubs.
One skipped turn through the rotation won’t prevent Corbin from threatening some unfortunate statistical milestones by year’s end. He could still be the majors’ first 20-game loser since the Tigers’ Mike Maroth lost 21 games in 2003. And the only major league starter to finish with an ERA over 6.50 while pitching at least 162 innings was Jose Lima, who had a 6.65 ERA in 2000 and a 6.99 ERA in 2005.
Martinez is aware of Corbin’s numbers but didn’t suggest he intends to go out of his way to prevent the lefty from having a shot at reaching those rare season-ending figures.
“The numbers are up there. But with that being said, we’ve really got to forget about the numbers and start fresh,” he said. “For me, it’s about his next start and what he can do in his next start, and go from there. I don’t want him to regress and go back the other way. I want him to worry about going 1-0 in his next start, and build up from there.”
* The Nationals are set to add a veteran to their bullpen this weekend after claiming left-hander Jake McGee off waivers from the Brewers today, a move that also prompted them to designate minor league outfielder Donovan Casey for assignment.
McGee had just been DFA’d by Milwaukee on Sunday after making only six appearances following his release by the Giants last month. In 30 total relief appearances this season, the 36-year-old has a 7.00 ERA and 1.519 WHIP, but that has come on the heels of a sustained run of success.
Over a 13-year career that began with the Rays, Rockies and Dodgers, McGee owns a 3.67 ERA, 1.145 WHIP and 79 saves. He first developed into a quality reliever with a Tampa Bay team that had Martinez as bench coach and Hickey as pitching coach. That familiarity played a role in today’s acquisition, not to mention the longstanding desire to add a reliable southpaw to the Nats bullpen.
“As you know, we have no lefties in our bullpen,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran guy, felt like the last couple months we could give him an opportunity here and maybe straighten him out and do something for him. I think that was the whole plan.”
McGee is scheduled to join the Nationals at home Friday, at which point they’ll need to drop someone from their current eight-man bullpen.
They needed to drop someone else from their 40-man roster today, and they chose to do that with Casey, potentially ending the outfielder’s tenure with the organization only one year after he was acquired from the Dodgers as one of four prospects in the Max Scherzer-Trea Turner blockbuster trade.
Casey, 26, was the least-touted of that group led by Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray, but there was hope he could develop into a fourth outfielder at the big league level. He did get called up for a brief stint in April but never actually made his major league debut. In 67 games with Triple-A Rochester this season, he hit just .219 with six homers, 24 RBIs, a .284 on-base percentage and .364 slugging percentage.
If Casey goes unclaimed on waivers, the Nationals could decide to keep him at Rochester. He would just no longer be on the 40-man roster.
“It’s an organizational decision,” Martinez said. “It’s always tough when you have to designate somebody. But it’s not the end-all. You’ve still got to work hard. We’ll see what happens in the future, but he’s got to continue to work. All of a sudden something clicks, and you find it. He’s got tons of ability. We know that. Something clicks, he finds it and he gets an opportunity to play up here.”