SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Corbin will throw the first pitch in major league baseball this season, almost exactly a year since winning the final spot in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation. It has been quite a ride, but it is not something Corbin dwells on.
"I’m going to approach it as another ball game and try to do my best. Whether it is the first or whatever, that doesn’t mean too much to me," Corbin said. "It’s exciting the Diamondbacks are giving me the opportunity to start the first game. I think everybody wants to start the first game. It’s an honor."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson took to Twitter on Monday to announce that Corbin will start the first game of the two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Sydney, Australia, on March 22-23. Trevor Cahill will start the second game.
It is hardly surprising. Corbin was 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and made his first All-Star appearance in his first full season in the rotation in 2013, and he is 3-2 with a 3.74 ERA in seven career appearances against the Dodgers. Cahill is 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA in 10 career starts against the Dodgers.
"Patrick, with the year he had last year, he came in in great shape. We thought he deserved to be our starter in Game 1," Gibson said. "I liked the matchup with Cahill in Game 2. He’s thrown the ball well, too. I feel like he’s made a lot of progress with being more consistent."
While the D-backs discussed many options, Gibson indicated Monday that Corbin and Cahill were probably the top two candidates entering spring training
"Going in, that’s who we were talking about. The more conversation we had and the criteria we went through, we were all in agreement that was the way to go," Gibson said. "It just came together. We thought it would benefit the guys to know they way they fit in as we knew. They can shape their schedule forward the Sydney series."
Corbin, 24, is scheduled to make his last start before the trip on March 15 against Cleveland, while Cahill will go March 16 against Milwaukee, the D-backs’ final two games before they leave for Sydney. The D-backs are to resume exhibition play March 26, and the regular season opens March 31 against San Francisco.
The D-backs seem likely to take only one, if any, of their three remaining starters — Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Bronson Arroyo — to Australia, as a hedge against injury or sickness. It seems more likely all will remain three in Arizona to continue to build toward the regular season. Gibson said Monday that he is not particularly concerned about bullpen length in Australia with Josh Collmenter and Randall Delgado able to pitch multiple innings.
The D-backs can take 30 players to Australia, although three will be ineligible to play against the Dodgers but can be used in the exhibition game against the Australian National team March 21. The other two players can be used as injury replacements against the Dodgers. A third catcher will go "for sure," Gibson said, and with fewer starting pitchers making the trip, a combination of extra bullpen arms and position players are a possibility.
"A lot depends on how the rest of the bullpen shakes out," Gibson said. "I’m particularly interested in our left-handers. How they are throwing the baseball? How they play into it in Australia? We’re very focused on that part of our bullpen."
Joe Thatcher, Eury De La Rosa, Joe Paterson and Santos Rodriquez are the four roster left-handed relievers in camp. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is the Dodgers’ primary left-handed hitting threat, although Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford also bat left.
"Who’s it going to be?" Gibson said "Who is the first (left-hander) going to be, No. 1? Are two of them on the squad? The roster construction is going to be a little bit different than it will be opening day. We have some flexibility on how we can go. It will certainly be shaped for that series."
The D-backs have had discussions about the three starters for the San Francisco series March 31-April 2, but nothing has been decided, Gibson said. Some teams who made previous trips to Japan have started the same pitchers in Japan and in the first two games back in the U.S., but it seems likely the D-backs will hold Corbin and Cahill out of the Giants series to re-acclimate.
"We’ll get through the other guys, see how they’re throwing, see what the health is," Gibson said. "I’ll continue to study how it lays out, not only in the Giants’ series but beyond."
Corbin’s 208 ⅓-inning workload last season was a small consideration in the D-backs’ decision, but Gibson said it was a small issue.
"All in all, it was something we needed to consider," Gibson said. "I think we are pretty comfortable with a young kid being able to handle the workload."
The Dodgers have not yet announced their starters for the two-game series, although it is widely assumed that ace Clayton Kershaw, the 2013 NL Cy Young winner, will start the opener.