PHOENIX — Left-hander Patrick Corbin on Monday morning took the next step toward a return to the Diamondbacks with an extended spring training game and the results were promising.
Showing the fastball command that made him a 2013 All-Star, Corbin struck out five and gave up two runs — both on hard-Arizona-dirt chopping singles that bounced over third base — in 3 1/3 innings at Salt River Fields.
"He looked great. Couldn’t have been happier," D-backs pitching coach Mike Harkey said. "Every time he gets out of there healthier for me is a plus."
Corbin touched 95 mph with his fastball in the first inning and sat at 92-94 mph, a tick above when he was in 2013. He got four strikeouts with well-located fastballs and another when the batter swung over a slider.
"Like he never left," Harkey said when asked about Corbin’s stuff. "Basically what I am looking for is fastball command, his fastball command today was outstanding. His slider is still a work in progress, but that is usually the last thing that comes. It’s still pretty good, but to get it back to wipe out, where it was two years ago, it takes time. His changeup was good."
D-backs manager Chip Hale and bench coach Glenn Sherlock also attended the game, which was called after Corbin reached 54 pitches, 39 of which were strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 15 hitters he faced and did not walk a batter until the fourth inning, when both runs scored.
"It was good, got extended. My arm felt like it got better and better as we went on," said Corbin, 13 1/2 months removed from Tommy John surgery that kept him out last season. "Fastball command felt really good today, better than last outing. So just I continue to improve every time I go out there. Arm feels better and better. I feel really smooth in my delivery. I’m not trying to overthrow right now. There were a couple there that I rared back a little on, but I’m happy where I am right how.
"Getting close. Probably three or four more starts, and should be back to with the team if everything goes well. Three weeks right now seems like nothing to be back."
Occasional tenderness remains in the elbow, Corbin said, but it is almost to the point where he does not notice.
"There is very little (pain) in there, and it seems to go away when I throw," Corbin said. "I still feel little aches and pains there. The one thing is, the recovery time from my bullpen (sessions between starts) is taking a little bit longer, just the ligaments getting used to it. When it comes around when I’m going to pitch, everything feels great. Feel strong. Just excited to get to extend pitches and innings."
The D-backs are taking pains not to rush and will keep Corbin in the extended spring program for at least two more starts, Harkey said. The goal is for Corbin to throw 75 pitches in his next outing Sunday and 90 pitches in the following start. He will go every sixth day, not every fifth, to allow the elbow that extra rest.
"We’ll see where he is at after his next two (starts) and we’ll evaluate from there," Harkey said. "Everything we do has been planned out for a year, so we’ll make sure we stay the course."
On that schedule, Corbin could be ready to return in the first or second week of June, just where the D-backs had targeted.
"We have time," Harkey said. "We’re fortunate enough to have our guys holding the course with us. Hopefully they can continue to do that. … Regardless of whether they are or not, it will give us time to get Patrick all the way right."