Knebel hits DL, but encouraged by prognosis

Prospect Houser gets call to fill bullpen role

April 6th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- After collapsing on the mound Thursday due to a left hamstring injury, Brewers closer Corey Knebel wondered if his season was over. Manager Craig Counsell had the same concern.
On Friday, Knebel had an MRI scan and got encouraging news. The Brewers did place Knebel on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and recalled right-hander Adrian Houser from Double-A Biloxi, but the prognosis for Knebel's recovery -- minimum four weeks sidelined, and perhaps more like 6-8 weeks -- could have been much worse.
"Not as serious as everybody thought, which is good news," Knebel said.
Said Counsell: "We feel like we're fortunate here in talking about it. We know we're going to have this guy pitching for us again for a good chunk of the season."
Knebel moved slowly around Miller Park while Brewers relievers did their daily work in the outfield. He will be shut down completely for three days, and will not travel with the team to St. Louis and New York next week.
During Knebel's absence, Counsell will have to amend his bullpen plan. He expressed open-mindedness on Friday about who might handle save situations when they come up.
"I'm open to going with the same guy every night, but I think right now we'll just play the games and see how it kind of works out," Counsell said. "Who we're playing and lineups may have a little bit to do with that. I think as we get further along in this, somebody will probably claim most of the opportunities. But I don't know who that will be right now."

Knebel had never endured a hamstring issue before Thursday, when it was determined before the game that he would get his first inning of work in six days. Knebel took the mound with the Brewers trailing, 6-0, and saw the deficit grow to 8-0 when Jason Heyward connected for a two-run home run.
Two batters later, Knebel threw a pitch to Tommy La Stella and collapsed.
"Whenever you've done that in the past to yourself, you know how badly [a hamstring injury] hurts. It's worse than breaking a bone for me," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That was painful to watch. He's such a great talent and a big part of their team. You don't like to see that happen."
The incident renewed an old debate about whether it's worth the risk to pitch a closer in non-save situations. Of course, the argument against is a lot easier to make in the wake of an unfortunate injury.
"Every manager you talk to is going to say the same thing: Everybody's got to get work in," Knebel said. "You've got to stay fresh, stay on the mound. So no matter what the situation was, I needed to get some work in and get ready to go. That's exactly what I was doing."
He's back
This was not how Houser envisioned making it back to the big leagues for the first time since the end of 2015. But Houser, the Brewers' No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, knows as well as anyone that the game rarely allows a player to choose his path.

After pitching a pair scoreless innings for the Brewers in September 2015, the right-hander required Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed most of 2017 before re-establishing himself with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Houser suffered another setback when he had an emergency appendectomy in January, but recovered during Spring Training and was scheduled to pitch in a Double-A tandem with fellow prospect Kodi Medeiros beginning Saturday.
Instead, Houser was summoned back to the big leagues.
"It's definitely been a long journey," said Houser, who throws a power fastball and a plus curveball. "A lot of time put in to get here. I'm very excited to be back. … This definitely surprised me. I'm definitely happy about it."
The Brewers, who are trying to get by with seven relievers for as long as possible, needed some "length" in the bullpen, and Houser fit the bill. Counsell said the team may be flexible with that roster spot in the coming weeks.