The Milwaukee Brewers' offense, specifically Christian Yelich's 3-for-3 performance, drew most of the attention after Tuesday night's 18-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, but reliever Corey Knebel appeared to be back on track, too, striking out six over two scoreless innings in his third appearance since returning from the injured list earlier this month.
"There’s no question he’s going in the right direction," manager Craig Counsell said. "I think that’s what we’re seeing right now."
After missing all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the right-hander had gotten off to a rocky start in 2020. He'd posted a 9.45 ERA through his first nine appearances and had struck out seven over 6⅔ innings.
The Brewers placed him on the injured list with a strained hamstring on Aug. 20 and after getting some rehab work at the alternate training site in Appleton, Knebel returned to the Brewers on Sept. 8.
Since then, he's allowed one run over four innings covering three appearances and most notably, his fastball velocity has crept back up to normal levels including 95 and 96 mph Tuesday.
"It was going to take a while to get it back," Knebel said. "Now, it’s starting to look more fluid and feel a lot better."
Primarily a fastball/curveball pitcher, Knebel unveiled a new weapon Tuesday night: a changeup that he'd been tinkering with over the last few years but had never thrown in a game before. The pitch was so new that MLB's in-game play-tracking app didn't even recognize it, nor did Cardinals infielder Paul DeJong, who looked at a changeup for strike three to end the game.
"He just was like, ‘You don’t throw a changeup,'" Knebel said of DeJong's reaction. "It builds a lot of confidence, showing you can throw it in games. You never know until you throw it to a hitter. The catcher can tell you whatever he wants. But having the feedback from the catcher is completely different from having it from a hitter.
"Omar (Narvaez) came in after the first inning and said, ‘That’s a good pitch. Let’s keep throwing it. Just keep it down a little bit.’ So, we threw it a couple more times. It was good feedback, and it worked out."
Josh Lindblom will miss his next turn in the rotation after he was placed on the bereavement list for undisclosed reasons.
Lindblom returned to the rotation and put together his best performance of the season in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Cardinals on Monday when he struck out six over five scoreless innings.
Counsell wasn't sure when Lindblom would return. His next start would have come Saturday when the Brewers host the Kansas City Royals in the penultimate home game of the regular season.
"I can’t say for sure right now," Counsell said. "He will not start in the Kansas City series."
Right-hander Justin Topa was recalled from Appleton to replace Lindblom on the active roster.
Around the Horn
Left-hander Eric Lauer was recalled from Appleton and served as the 29th man on the roster for Wednesday's doubleheader. ... Pitcher Trey Supak and outfielder Ronny Rodriguez cleared waivers and were outrighted to Appleton. The Brewers designated both players for assignment earlier this week. ... MLB announced spring training schedules for 2021. The Brewers will open Cactus League play with a pair of split-squad games against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Arizona and the Oakland Athletics at American Family Fields of Phoenix on Feb. 27.
The Brewers get a day off Thursday before hosting Kansas City for the final home series of the season. Right-hander Adrian Houser (1-5, 5.40 ERA) will start the series opener Friday night, followed by right-hander Corbin Burnes (3-0, 1.98) Saturday and left-hander Brett Anderson (3-3, 4.38) Sunday.
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