SYDNEY, Australia - With the regular season about to start here later this week, the Diamondbacks are in a most precarious dilemma.
Coming into spring training, perhaps the most vulnerable position on the squad was that of starting pitching. Shaky at best and with the hope and expectation that the starters combined could pick up another 10-15 victories for National League West contention, that appears now as wishful thinking.
Coming into this weekend start of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Grounds, the Diamondbacks have two of their potential five starters down and a third has a history of placement on the disabled list.
All of a sudden, the stability of a five-man rotation crumbled like a house of cards.
At the center remains the condition of lefty Patrick Corbin, who was slated to start the opener on Saturday night against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
Corbin went down last Saturday afternoon with the Diamondbacks said was damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. Now, Corbin will not make the trip here and instead will visit with Dr. James Andrews and other specialists on his medical future.
If Corbin is a candidate for Tommy John surgery, that puts the Clay, N. Y. native out for at least one year and a possible return sometimes during the 2015 season. If that happens, he joins teammates righty Daniel Hudson and reliever Matt Reynolds as members of the Diamondbacks' Tommy John surgery club.
During the seventh inning of his start last Saturday against Cleveland in Goodyear, Corbin told MLB.com he signaled for manager Kirk Gibson and pitching coach Mike Harkey to the mound. Corbin left the ball park immediately and said he felt "a little shock" but no other sound or feeling during hhis final pitches.
According to MLB.com. Corbin has felt a tightness in his forearm much of the spring but the pain was elevated against the Indians.
"It was just the same tightness I kind of had the first three starts but nothing out of the ordinary," Corbin told MLB.com. "When I called Gibby and Harkey out, I knew something was wrong."
Because the Diamondbacks spent all of Monday (with travel and an 18 hour time difference) in the air, the team issued no further information on Corbin's condition.
The Diamondbacks are slated to work out Tuesday afternoon at the Sydney Cricket Grounds and are expected to have more on Corbin. Then again, they may skip the practice and head right to bed. Their Wednesday workout is slated for 2 p.m. and a gala reception to follow.
In the meantime, Gibson and his staff must scramble to name an Opening Day starter for Saturday. Plus, right Trevor Cahill, who is expected to start Sunday in the second game of this two-game set, injured his right knee last week in a game against Cleveland but appears to have recovered.
Cahill came out of a 6-5 win over the Brewers in his most recent start feeling no previous affects and told MLB.com he needs to work more on perfecting his curve, a pitch with which he's struggled this spring.
In light of Corbin's future, Cahill could get the nod for Saturday and possibly Brandon McCarthy or Wade Miley would go Sunday.
One pitcher who is not ready to go is Bronson Arroyo, still fighting the pain of a budging disk in his back. With just under two weeks before the season opens at Chase Field against the San Francisco Giants, Arroyo could open the campaign on the Disabled List.
That would open up a second spot in the rotation and names like Archie Bradley, Josh Collmenter and Randall Delgado appear as candidates. Another option could be Scottsdale native Charles Brewer, who was sent to Triple A Reno earlier this spring but has some major league experience with the Diamondbacks last season.
Right now, McCarthy and Miley make up the other two starters but McCarthy has a history of landing on the Disabled List in late May or early June throughout his major league career.
If the Diamondbacks could not afford injuries to starters, the reality hit like a ton bricks.
Not only does Kevin Towers, the team's general manager, Gibson and other front office personnel try and replace at least two starters here at the start of the season, the long-term health of the rotation remains a serious but unanswered concern.