Corey Knebel pitched with damage to the UCL in his pitching elbow for four years. He won’t be able to pitch with it for a fifth.
After exhausting all of his second and third and fourth opinions, the All-Star closer will have to have Tommy John surgery, according to Tom Haudricourt.
#Brewers reliever Corey Knebel has decided to have Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 29, 2019
Knebel’s surgery will be Wednesday, according to Haudricourt.
Speaking to reporters today, Knebel made it sound like he was choosing the (relative) certainty of surgery over rehabbing and praying rest would work.
Knebel was presented two options: TJ surgery and miss all season, or attempt rehab and make it back sometime in summer. The risk was that if rehab didn’t work, then he would need surgery after all, and essentially miss two whole seasons. At 27 years old, made sense to do it now.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 29, 2019
As advanced as the surgery and rehab protocols have become for UCL reconstruction, it’s still far from a sure thing, but with Knebel’s elbow already in the condition it was in, surgery was likely going to be needed sooner or later.
Yesterday, Haudricourt reported that three doctors in addition to team physician William Raasch looked at the scans of Knebel’s elbow. That included a visit to LA to see Neal ElAttrache, one of the most well-known Tommy John surgeons in the country.
Knebel told the Journal-Sentinel before Opening Day that the decision on what to do would be made today, and it would be his decision on what to do, and not the team’s.
“I’ve got all the cards on the table, and it’s just, ‘Which one?’ ... It’s not really anybody’s decision but mine.”
Knebel first damaged the UCL in his elbow while with the Texas Rangers in 2014, but decided to rehab the injury instead of go under the knife. It ended up being the right decision, as the elbow held up for four years as he became a back-of-the-bullpen relief ace. While he had a couple injury hiccups here and there, including a scary hamstring injury early last season that saw him collapse on the mound, he never experienced arm problems.
That changed on St. Patrick’s Day this year, when he left his appearance in that game with elbow discomfort. Up to that point in the spring, he had looked sharp, not allowing a run all spring.
The combined absence of Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress has led to a lot of questions on who will close out games for the Brewers. Jeffress is making progress and could be back before the end of April, and one would assume he would take over the 9th inning role he had secured by the end of the 2018 season once he’s ready. Josh Hader picked up the save on Opening Day, pitching 2 innings, but if he’s going to continue in his multi-inning role, someone else will need to step in for the one or two days of rest those outings require.
We may get our first clue as to how Counsell will play those cards tonight.