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Battle for Arizona Diamondacks' 5th Rotation Spot Over for Tyler Skaggs

Star Prospect Sent to Minors; Patrick Corbin, Randall Delgado Left Standing

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The battle for the Arizona Diamondbacks' fifth starting rotation position is over, at least as far as star prospect Tyler Skaggs is concerned.

On March 18, the team optioned the 21-year-old left-hander to Triple-A Reno, leaving only lefty Patrick Corbin and newly acquired right-hander Randall Delgado to fight over the last starting slot.

The brightest of Arizona's young pitching stars-of-the-future remaining in the minors, Skaggs struggled mightily in spring training, allowing 16 runs -- 11 earned -- in 12 innings. Five of those runs came in a three-hit, four-walk performance against the San Diego Padres on March 16.

"He really lost it yesterday in his last inning; just couldn't find his release point," manager Kirk Gibson said Sunday. "He was trying to correct it out there, but kind of got a little too mechanical and was just unable to throw strikes. He walked four in that inning and I had to remove him."

Skaggs, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Trevor Bauer and Corbin comprised Arizona's quartet of young pitching stars of the future. Bauer was traded in the offseason to the Cleveland Indians. Miley, initially considered the weakest of the four, ended up turning in a Rookie of the Year-worthy season in 2012.

Corbin came up early last year and struggled, only to reemerge as a long man in the bullpen in September and did well. Gibson said it was apparent Corbin learned from his first stint in the big leagues and made adjustments after being sent back down.

The hope is Skaggs will do the same. The young lefty flourished in the shadow of brash No. 1 pick Bauer but wilted somewhat under the limelight. He admitted he has been putting too much pressure on himself and while coaches blamed him for thinking too much while on the mound.

Going back to Reno and the Pacific Coast League rarely is good for a pitcher's self-confidence. But Skaggs did more than survive there in nine games last year, turning in a 4-2 record, 2.91 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 52 2/3 innings, comparable to his stats at Double-A Mobile.

With Skaggs gone, it's now up to Corbin, whom was traded with him from the Los Angeles Angels for Dan Haren in 2010, to fight off Delgado, whom was acquired in the offseason in the trade that sent OF Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves.

Delgado looked impressive in his March 13 outing against the Milwaukee Brewers. Not only was his two-seam fastball working, but he was also able to throw his changeup and breaking ball on any count. He also proved he could pitch out of trouble, which Corbin struggled with last season. Consistency has been the right-hander's problem, however. His next outing, which Gibson wants to last five innings or 75 pitches, will be make or break.

It's consistency that put Corbin on the inside track for the fifth slot. The key for him will be his ability to throw the ball to both sides of the plate. If he can do that, his delivery will make things difficult for lefties, who he had problems with last year.

With only two weeks left until opening day, time to impress is running out. Gibson will push starters up to 90-95 pitches per start next week and if Corbin exhibits the lack of endurance he showed last year, the door will be wide open for Delgado to start earning the Dbacks a return on their superstar trade.

James is a 25-year journalist who has worked in Washington, New York, Bangkok and Tokyo covering politics, business, travel and sports. With so many homes, he's adopted several teams, most recently the Diamondbacks upon moving to Phoenix in 2012.

Follow James on Twitter at @NotThatBobJames.

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