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Brewers announce reliever Bobby Wahl has a torn ACL

The season is likely over before it begins for one of the Brewers’ bullpen candidates

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

When Bobby Wahl left the Brewers’ Cactus Leauge game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, it was tough to tell what happened. Wahl came up limping after giving up a sacrifice fly to former Brewers farmhand Mitch Haniger, but was able to limp off the field under his own power.

There was enough concern that Wahl had an MRI done on his knee, and the results that came back today weren’t good — Wahl has a torn ACL and will likely miss the entire 2019 season.

Not only is it a fluke injury, but one that’s apparently absurdly rare. David Stearns says they’ve only been able to find two other cases of a pitcher tearing his ACL on his plant leg while pitching, like Wahl did.

This is just the latest bad luck injury in what’s been a career of them for Wahl, who most recently missed most of 2017 with a shoulder injury that led to a diagnosis of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Finally healthy with some filthy stuff, Wahl was one of three players the Brewers got back from the New York Mets for Keon Broxton and figured to compete for one of the last spots in the Opening Day bullpen. The front office seemed high on Wahl, saying a few times they figured he’d be a valuable piece in the bullpen at some point this season, even if he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training. Wahl has a career K/9 of 11.9 and led all relievers in strikeout rate and swinging strike rate last year.

As noted above, Wahl will seek a second opinion on his knee, but it seems unlikely he’ll get one that would still put him on a timeline to play much, if at all, this season. Yovani Gallardo may have been able to return from ACL surgery in just 5 months in 2008, but that was an unusually quick recovery.

Since Craig Counsell has yet to use most of the relievers that will likely play key roles during the regular season, it’s hard to tell at this point what Wahl’s injury means for the roster chances of those who may have been behind him. Guys like Jake Petricka or Jay Jackson may see a little more opportunity, while the Jacob Barnes or Taylor Williams types may have a little more security when it comes to possibly making the roster.

Regardless, the injury to Wahl is extremely disappointing considering the high strikeout potential he brought to what figured to be a middle innings role. He’ll likely land on the 60-day injured list, opening up another spot on the 40-man roster in the event Stearns finds another free agent he likes, whether it’s now or at the end of camp, like last year’s signing of Dan Jennings.