Last week, Brewers closer Corey Knebel elicited some concern when it was revealed that he was dealing with a UCL issue in his right elbow. Today, the news is worse: According to a personal pregame announcement, Knebel is set to miss the entire 2019 season after he undergoes Tommy John surgery next Wednesday.
Per MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, Knebel admitted that he had been dealing with lingering elbow soreness since 2014, right around the time that he was toiling in Triple-A Round Rock with the Rangers. He elected to undergo the procedure in hopes of returning to the ‘pen by 2020, though it’s still unclear whether or not he’ll be able to make a full recovery by that point.
The 27-year-old righty did not appear during the Brewers’ 5-4 season opener against the Cardinals on Thursday. He pitched just 5 2/3 innings in Cactus League competition, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out six of 20 batters faced. While he’s still two years removed from the career-high numbers he posted with Milwaukee in 2017, he turned in 16 saves with a serviceable 3.58 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 14.3 SO/9, and 1.0 fWAR through 55 1/3 frames in 2018.
The Brewers, meanwhile, have yet to announce an official replacement for Knebel at the back end of the bullpen. While both the Brewers and Braves have been continuously linked to free agent closer Craig Kimbrel this spring, it doesn’t look as if either team is particularly close to striking a deal with the right-hander just yet.