The season for the Arizona Diamondbacks might be over before it begins with the news, first reported by AZCentral's Nick Piecoro, that the D'Backs' young ace Patrick Corbin has a UCL tear in his elbow that might require Tommy John surgery.
It's the worst thing that could have happened to the D'Backs this spring outside of an injury to Archie Bradley or Paul Goldschmidt. Losing Corbin effectively takes Arizona out of the NL West picture.
Piecoro reports that Corbin will likely get a second opinion this week, but more than likely this means Corbin will be heading toward surgery that will likely cost him the entire 2014 and part of the 2015 season as he rehabs from injury.
The 24-year-old Corbin was one of Arizona's bright stars last season, turning in a 14-8 record with a 3.41 ERA in 208.1 innings. It was good enough to land Corbin in the All-Star Game last year and allowed Arizona to project a rotation headed by Corbin and top prospect Bradley going into the future.
It's hard to fault the D'Backs for anything that has happened to Corbin. His innings have increased at a normal pace over the past five seasons. Corbin pitched 144.2 innings in 2010 followed by 160.1 innings in 2011 and a 186.1 innings in 2012. It's a gradual increase that led to Corbin passing the 200-innings barrier last season.
The surgery and rehab alone isn't a guarantee that Corbin will return to form. The D'Backs have to only look at Daniel Hudson's recovery from Tommy John surgery to know that nothing is guaranteed. Hudson was an extremely promising young pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2012. While making a rehab start in June 2013, Hudson injured the elbow again, causing him to undergo a second Tommy John surgery that month.
Outside of nine starts made in 2012, the 27-year-old Hudson may effectively lose almost three full seasons in the prime of his career. If the D'Backs are out of contention this summer, it makes very little sense to push Hudson at all in his recovery this season.
In trying to look at the D'Backs 2014 campaign in a positive light, the hope was that a rotation built around Corbin and Bradley coupled with free agent Bronson Arroyo and the improved performance of veterans Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy would allow the D'Backs to contend for a playoff spot in 2014.
Instead, the rotation stands in shambles before the season has even started. Arroyo has been dealing with a disk issue in his back for much of the spring, Cahill left Wednesday's game after having a minor issue with his knee, and now Corbin is potentially lost for the season before even the first game is played.
Randall Delgado should be the obvious answer to fill Corbin's shoes. Delgado was a central piece in last winter's Justin Upton deal, and now the D'Backs will get a chance to fully evaluate him this season. Delgado was 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts for Arizona in 2013.
While it was hard to imagine the D'Backs contending for the NL West or a wild-card spot with Corbin, it is virtually impossible to see this pitching staff replacing Corbin and matching up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants this season. Arizona simply doesn't have the starting pitching to match up head-to-head.
If Corbin has surgery this month, it effectively means he will be coming back next season after a 12-month absence with the hope of impacting the rotation by the middle of next season. That rotation figures to look very different then the one that takes the field this season.
Unfortunately for the D'Backs, they continue to be snake-bit while attempting to get back into playoff contention.