Corbin has damaged elbow ligament
Scheduled Opening Day starter will not make trip to Australia
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For Patrick Corbin and the D-backs, the news couldn't have been much worse Sunday, when the team revealed the ace left-hander had sustained damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
Corbin, who said he had a partial tear in the ligament, will get a second opinion on the diagnosis this week from Dr. James Andrews, the noted surgeon. Corbin will not make the trip to Australia for the Opening Series against the Dodgers. Instead, he will meet with Andrews to determine whether Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery -- and the 12-month rehabilitation that follows -- is his next course of action or if he will be able to rehabilitate the injury without surgery.
"This is kind of all new to me, so it's disappointing," an obviously shaken Corbin said in a news conference Sunday morning.
The 24-year-old Corbin had been scheduled to throw the first pitch of the Major League season as the D-backs' starter in the first game of the Opening Series in Australia against the Dodgers. Wade Miley will take his place in the opener.
Going to Australia without their young ace lefty was obviously not part of the plan for the D-backs.
"We're all disappointed," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I think it's a big blow to the individual that he's going through this, also for the team. We've all prepared for him to be a part of it."
Said general manager Kevin Towers: "It's tough. I feel bad for Patrick. When you get that news, myself, I went through it myself back in the '80s. It's tough. It's scary. He was all excited about going to Australia and to see his teammates getting ready to get on the plane … knowing there's a chance he could miss the entire season, that's tough."
Corbin had a magnetic resonance imaging scan after leaving his Cactus League start Saturday in the seventh inning complaining of stiffness in his left forearm, and the MRI revealed the ligament damage.
In the middle of an at-bat with one out in the seventh inning against the Indians at Goodyear Ballpark, Corbin motioned for a mound visit from Gibson and pitching coach Mike Harkey, along with D-backs assistant trainer Ryan DiPanfilo. He left the ballpark immediately after exiting the game to be examined by D-backs medical personnel at Salt River Fields.
Corbin said he had been feeling tightness in his forearm through much of the spring and during his Saturday start, but the pain went to a next level with the final three of his 91 pitches in Saturday's game. He said he felt "a little shock" but no pop in his elbow those last few pitches, and he decided to shut it down.
"It was just the same tightness I kind of had the first three starts, but nothing out of the ordinary," Corbin said. "Just those last three pitches it kind of got to me when I called out Gibby and Harkey. I knew was something wrong there then. … There was probably something wrong with it the whole game, but I didn't feel it much until the end and those last couple of pitches, so I was probably smart to stop throwing."
Gibson said Corbin was facing his last hitter of the day when the injury occurred.
"We didn't see anything coming," Gibson said. "He hasn't had anything happen that would lead us to believe it."
Corbin went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 32 starts in 2013, making his first appearance as an All-Star and being named D-backs' Most Valuable Pitcher in his second full season in the Majors.
With Corbin definitely out of the rotation to start the season, candidates for the open spot include Archie Bradley, who will start the exhibition game against the Australian national team prior to the two-game series with the Dodgers, or Randall Delgado or Josh Collmenter, who would have to be moved from anticipated bullpen roles.
"He's a tough guy to replace, but we'll be fine," Towers said.
Suddenly, Corbin is dealing with the possibility of surgery that will put him on the shelf for an entire season. Having built up his arm year by year, he does not think there was anything in his development or his workload this spring that caused the injury, but that does not make the situation any easier.
"I think it's just a freak incident," Corbin said. "I think I've done everything I could to stay healthy. It just kind of sucks that it happened."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.