Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers failed in his quest to acquire an established ace this offseason. Now, it appears the Diamondbacks will be without their de facto ace, Patrick Corbin, for the 2014 season.
Corbin left his Cactus League start Saturday in the middle of an at-bat in the seventh inning with what the team originally diagnosed as forearm tightness. The left-hander said he had felt some general tightness in his forearm all spring but that the feeling intensified in the last three pitches he threw, prompting him to call out Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and pitching coach Mike Harkey.
"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."
An MRI revealed Corbin had sustained damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, and the team made it public early Sunday. It came out later Sunday that Tommy John surgery was the initial recommendation, but that the 24-year-old was going to seek a second opinion.
If Corbin is indeed lost for the season, the Diamondbacks have a few options to try to fill his shoes. The first shot will likely go to Randall Delgado, whom they acquired from the Braves in the Justin Upton trade before last season. Delgado made 19 starts last year for the club, posting a 4.26 ERA over 116 1/3 innings. Another swingman, Josh Collmenter, could also be given a shot in the rotation after a successful turn as the team's long reliever last season.
The more intriguing option, both from a fantasy and real life perspective, is top prospect Archie Bradley. At 20 years old, Bradley dominated the minors last season, posting a 1.84 ERA while striking out 162 batters in 152 innings between High-A and Double-A. The 21-year-old was rated as the No. 9 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus earlier this winter.
It's also possible that Towers revisits the talks to land the ace he couldn't get this winter. It's conceivable that Jeff Samardzija or David Price could still be had from their respective clubs, for the right price. But whichever way the team decides to go, Towers said the team will persevere.
"He's a tough guy to replace," Towers said, "but we'll be fine."
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Iglesias Out; Drew In?
If not for Corbin's injury, the biggest news of the weekend would have come from Tigers camp.
It came out Saturday afternoon that Jose Iglesias, who has been sidelined due to issues with both of his shins, could possibly miss four months as a result of his ailment. That would keep him out until after the All-Star break and leave a huge hole for the team at shortstop. The Tigers weren't depending on Iglesias' bat, but the team will miss his stellar defense at short.
The report led to speculation that the Tigers could turn to another defensive ace, Stephen Drew, in Iglesias' absence. Drew remains a free agent, largely due to the fact that he's tied to draft pick compensation, and he'd seem to be a perfect fit for a team with championship aspirations after winning a ring with the Red Sox last season. The Mariners' Nick Franklin is another option the team could explore should they attempt to acquire help.
For now, though, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said everything beyond the fact that Iglesias will begin the season on the disabled list is "speculation." That includes the idea that the team is interested in Drew, as Dombrowski has indicated they will attempt to fill the void with internal candidates. Iglesias is set to visit a third specialist on Tuesday to get another opinion on the issue, and it's a safe bet that more will be known about the length of his absence -- and the Tigers' urgency to find a suitable replacement -- after that visit.
Your home run king at roughly the halfway point of spring is ... Chris Heisey?
Unlikely as it sounds, Heisey has been tearing the cover off the ball this spring. The 29-year-old hit his spring-best fifth home run Saturday, giving him 11 RBI through 13 games. Heisey is now batting .412 with a 1.000 slugging percentage through 34 at-bats.
It's not uncommon to hear stories about different stances this time of year, but Heisey credits an unusual source for his early success -- New York Mets minor leaguer Joe Tuschak, with whom Heisey worked out during this past offseason.
"He has his hands real low," Heisey said. "He looks real relaxed. That's kind of what I've been trying to get to -- a place where I could be relaxed and loose. One day, I just tried it. It felt really good. I went into spring hitting like that, not really knowing how, once I got into the games, it would translate. I feel really good and relaxed. Hopefully, I can keep it going."
Despite the power surge, Heisey is still slated for a bench job come April. With Jay Bruce entrenched in right field, the speedy Billy Hamilton penciled in for center field and Ryan Ludwick hoping for a bounce-back season in left, Heisey looks to be the odd man out at this point. If given the chance Heisey has enough power to do some damage -- he hit 18 home runs in 308 plate appearances in 2011 -- but he'll need something to change before Opening Day if he hopes to continue his hot hitting into the regular season.
Hamilton To Make Debut Monday
After being slowed by a calf injury to start camp, Josh Hamilton will make his Cactus League debut Monday.
Hamilton has been working his way back in recent days, taking live batting practice for the first time Thursday. The biggest hurdle, though, was running the bases, which he did successfully Saturday. Passing that test meant he'd be cleared for game action.
It will be Hamilton's first game of the spring, but that doesn't mean he won't have time to be ready for the season opener. Hamilton reiterated Sunday that, if all goes well, he still expects to be ready for Opening Day. The 32-year-old will serve as the team's designated hitter in Monday's game before hopefully getting to play some outfield later in the week.