The Brewers announced on Thursday that one pitcher’s comeback would be put on hold, while a fan-favorite has been recalled to the club.
2020 was supposed to signal the addition of a familiar valuable weapon to the Brewers bullpen in former All-Star closer Corey Knebel. While the reliever, who missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, did in fact make his return to the mound this year, the results probably haven’t been quite what he’d hoped for.
Knebel has struggled so far in 2020, giving up seven earned runs over nine appearances and experiencing lower velocity than he had prior to his injury. As it turns out, a completely new injury may be responsible for the issues.
Knebel’s departure means the return of outfielder Mark Mathias who endeared himself to fans when he was recalled to Milwaukee for the first time earlier this month. It also adds some more punch to an offense that is finally starting to click for the first time all season.
Overcompensation not helping Knebel’s cause
One of the first things that issues that was noticable upon Knebel’s first few appearances was the dip in velocity on his fastball. In the two years prior to his injury, the average velocity on his four-seamer was right about 97 mph, per Statcast.
This year, the pitch’s velocity has averaged just 93.9 mph, which has made it much more hittable for opposing batters. While it would be understandable to think that the dip in velocity is related to his arm strength still returning, and that may very well be true, a new injury could be responsible as well, as Adam McCalvy of MLB.com revealed.
A healthy hamstring could hopefully allow Knebel to regain his pitching form and improve on his brutal 9.45 ERA, 2.250 WHIP, and 5.4 home runs per nine innings. He reportedly will spend some time resting on the road trip while staying with the team before heading to Appleton for some rehab.
Mathias rejoins the Brewers
Instead of replacing Knebel with another bullpen arm, the Brewers instead opted to recall Mark Mathias and add another bat to the bench. The young outfielder made his MLB debut and picked up the first hit of his major league career while with Milwaukee in early August.
Mathias has five hits, all singles, in 16 at bats so far in 2020 while also scoring twice and driving in two runs. He could provide a spark of offense off the bench seeing as Milwaukee’s main backup options, Brock Holt and Ben Gamel, are currently in offensive slumps.
One could find it a little surprising that manager Craig Counsell replaced Knebel with Mathias instead of another reliever considering his general philosophy for roster construction. End of bullpen relievers haven’t had to be used too often this year, though, so Counsell must have figured he could do without for the time being.
Milwaukee’s bullpen has performed extremely well this season, but a healthy Knebel would go a long way towards allowing the Brewers to realize their playoff aspirations. Hopefully some time in Appleton will allow him to come back looking more like his old self.