When the rumors connecting the Brewers to free agent closer Craig Kimbrel picked up over the past couple days, people trying to read in between the lines inferred it may have had something to do with the health of Jeremy Jeffress.
It turns out that isn’t the only injury concern at the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen.
After Robert Murray of The Athletic noted yesterday that Corey Knebel had been backed off of throwing after what was described as a “tired arm” by Murray’s source and a “minor issue” by Knebel himself, saying he was just “giving it a break,” manager Craig Counsell said there was, in fact, concern about Knebel’s elbow.
So much so that Knebel has an appointment to figure out what’s wrong today.
Corey Knebel has an elbow issue, Counsell said. “There’s reason for concern,” he added. Will see Dr. William Raasch today.— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) March 21, 2019
#Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Knebel's velocity was down a bit in his last outing Sunday, and he complained of elbow discomfort afterward. Was withheld from throwing but obviously didn't improve enough to pitch. So, time to figure out what it is.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 21, 2019
A week before Opening Day, even if the elbow problem isn’t the most feared outcome, any prescribed rest through the final weekend of the spring schedule may put Knebel’s availability for the start of the season at risk.
No matter what exam reveals it is likely Knebel will join Jeffress on season opening injured list.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 21, 2019
That would put the Brewers without their top two end-of-game options for at least the first 10 days of the season, which would mean missing series against the Cardinals, Reds and Cubs — some games that could end up carrying more meaning in September than they do now, depending on how the division race shakes out.
Without either, the Brewers could opt to go the route they did in the early parts of 2018, with Josh Hader making multi-inning outings to close out games. Outside of that, they could play match-ups depending on who is up to bat in the 9th inning, possibly using Alex Claudio in a lefty-heavy inning or turning to Junior Guerra, Taylor Williams or (yes, even) Matt Albers against righties.
It’s also possible that answer isn’t on the team yet. David Stearns has always seemed to pick up an arm in the final days of spring training, as guys who aren’t going to make their current clubs are let go roughly around this time every year.
This also seems like a good time to mention that if the Brewers were to sign Kimbrel, they would only lose their 4th-best draft pick this summer.
You know, just saying.