March 28: Knebel has received opinions from three doctors and is weighing whether to undergo surgery or attempt a rest and rehab approach, per Todd Rosiak and Haudricourt. He’ll make a decision tomorrow.
March 21, 8:09pm: GM David Stearns says the team still isn’t sure how to label the damage to Knebel’s UCL, as Haudricourt tweets. But the organization “know[s] it’s damaged to some extent.”
6:52pm: Knebel has an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament, Counsell told reporters this evening. (Via Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; links to Twitter.) That’s certainly worrying at first glance, though it’s said not to be a complete tear of the ligament. It’s also not a new injury, though it’s not clear whether additional damage may have been incurred.
At the moment, it’s not known whether the malady will require surgery and/or end Knebel’s season before it begins. He’s slated to receive a second opinion.
12:45pm: Brewers closer Corey Knebel will have his right elbow examined today, manager Craig Counsell revealed to reporters (Twitter link via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). The Athletic’s Robert Murray had previously written that he was taking a step back from throwing due to elbow discomfort. Counsell acknowledged that there is some cause for concern.
The Knebel injury makes it all the more apparent why Milwaukee has recently been in contact with Craig Kimbrel to discuss a potential fit. It was already known that Jeremy Jeffress would open the season on the injured list — though president of baseball operations David Stearns said this week that Jeffress could be back by mid or late April. It now seems likely that Knebel will join him there to begin the year.
Knebel, Jeffress and Josh Hader combined for much of the regular season to form an overpowering bullpen trio. Each of the three posted K/9 marks of 10.5 or better, while Hader and Jeffress checked in with ERAs south of 2.50. Knebel’s ERA wasn’t quite as eye-popping, thanks largely to a late August slump, but he didn’t allow a run over his final 16 1/3 innings of the regular season and posted a ridiculous 33-to-3 K/BB ratio along the way. On the season, he averaged 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
There’s no indication that Jeffress’ shoulder issue is a long-term concern, but the situation surrounding Knebel, to this point, is more ominous (or at least more vague). If the Brewers do ultimately turn to Kimbrel in light of the bullpen issues that have cropped up this spring, they’d have to part with their fourth-round draft selection due to the fact that Kimbrel rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox. The Brewers already forfeited their third-round pick to sign Yasmani Grandal, and their current payroll projects at a franchise-record $127.5MM.