PHOENIX — It may be too early to bring it up, but what the heck. Halfway to the All-Star Game, Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin is as good a candidate as any to start for the National League. He has been that good.
“That’s a no-brainer,” catcher Miguel Montero said of an All-Star invitation.
“He’s going to go. I know it is still a long way to go, but he’s getting better.”
It has been a remarkable eight weeks for a Corbin, who entered spring training in a three-way fight for the fifth spot in the starting rotation and has emerged as the staff stopper. He’s had victories to stop four- and three-game losing streaks, the D-backs’ longest two losing streaks of the year.
Corbin will bring a 7-0 record and a 1.44 ERA into his 10th start of the season Sunday against the Padres, and only perennial Cy Young Award candidate Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers has a better ERA in the majors.
The D-backs have won all nine of Corbin’s starts, and he is the only pitcher in either league to have gone six or more innings and given up two or fewer runs in all nine of his outings. Ubaldo Jimenez was the last to do that, when he opened the season with 12 straight such starts in 2010.
His maturity level has been evident from the clubhouse to the mound in Yankee Stadium, when he pitched like the other No. 46 — the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte — in front of family and friends, giving up two hits and one run in seven innings on April 18. He left with a lead that the bullpen did not hold; he would be 9-0 if the ‘pen had held leads in New York and San Francisco in successive April starts.
“The thing that Patrick has done well this year is stay out of the middle of the plate,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “When he makes a mistake, he misses way off the corner either way, either inside or outside. He’s throwing to all the quadrants, too, so it’s not like you can sit there and look for one spot.”
Corbin, 23, cannot get much better than he was last Monday, when he threw his first complete game in a 5-1 victory at Coors Field. The Rockies had bad swing after bad swing on sliders in the dirt, and afterward Todd Helton called Corbin’s the best slider he has ever seen.
That performance came a start after Chipper Jones tweeted, “This Corbin dude is pretty nasty!” when Corbin threw seven shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Braves on May 14.
Corbin threw a disproportionate amount of sliders against Colorado, between 25 and 30, not only because the pitch was working so well but because he threw so many strikes with his fastball that hitters had to look there first. Perhaps the main reason for Corbin’s success is his ability to locate his low-90s fastball on both corners and at all levels.
“He can throw the fastball, well located, anywhere. When he locates his fastball, every other pitch looks better,” Montero said.
As for the slider, Corbin said, “I’ve just been more consistent with it. It keeps them off balance. I feel like I have the same arm speed with all my pitches, which makes it harder to pick up. I think it comes out just like my fastball, so by the time they are swinging, they think fastball. Then they realize it’s a slider.
“I just think when you are locating all your pitches that it makes it a little tough. I think they are up their guessing, and when they are looking heater and (I) throw a slider, it gets them off balance.”
Corbin is receiving some well-deserved national attention. He did a radio interview with ESPN this week to talk about his slider, for example. Gibson knows how attention can be a double-edged sword, and he believes Corbin has the composure to handle it.
“It’s dangerous. It’s part of the things you have to learn about being a good pitcher. Obviously (success) builds your confidence up. He is a very humble kid. I’m sure in his own mind he makes sure he checks himself,” Gibson said.
Even if Corbin’s future includes an unscheduled visit to his home state of New York — the All-Star Game will be played at the Mets’ Citi Field on July 16 — there is no reason to believe he will be affected.
“I’m not trying to get too high on myself or two low. I just want to keep going out there and do what I have done so far and make sure my preparation between starts is good. I don’t feel like I’m going to change, no matter what happens. I think when you start to change, that’s when things start to fall apart,” Corbin said.
“I just want to go out and battle. When you start doing too much, that’s when things went out of sots. When I went out there for the ninth (inning in Colorado), I just wanted to stay composed and make sure I did what I did to get to the ninth. That’s what I learned, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”