PHILADELPHIA – It was supposed to be a day of celebration for the Phillies. After all, that was the last time the schedule would have them face the New York Mets.
Alas, before the first game of the regular season finale between the teams on Sunday, the Phillies were thrown for a loop.
Corey Knebel, a free agent acquisition who started the season as the club’s closer, is now done. According to interim manager Rob Thomson, Knebel, who has been out for the past week with a right lat strain, had a “torn shoulder capsule along with a lat injury”.
“He’s going to Texas tonight and getting stem cell treatment (there),” Thomson said, “to try to avoid surgery as much as possible and try to get back to performing as soon as he can.”
While nothing official has been announced, the optimistic plan for Knebel, who missed 92 games for the Dodgers last season with a right lat strain, is to have him back to health and ready for training next spring . . . somewhere.
The Phillies placed him on the 60-day disabled list, and Knebel is only signed for this season. The $10 million annual deal was quite the gamble for the 30-year-old, who had pitched just 39 innings over the previous two seasons in Los Angeles and Milwaukee.
“I’m sure it’s disappointing for him, but it’s really disappointing for us because he’s been a big part of this bullpen,” Thomson said. “Even though he’s been in some low-leverage situations (recently), it’s just his presence out there and being a professional and the way he’s taken care of the young guys; it was very good.’
What makes the Knebel news really bad is the timing, as Serantani Dominguez, who essentially replaced Knebel as the closer, has been placed on the 15-day IL (backdated to August 18th) due to triceps “stiffness” during his pitch. hand Thomson said Saturday that he did not learn of Dominguez’s problem until this morning.
“We sent him for X-rays (Saturday) night to check for bone chips and things like that and it was clear,” Thomson said. “He will now have an MRI today to check for structural damage. But we think — we hope — that when his IL time is up, he’ll come back to us.”
Thomson admitted he was concerned about the overuse of Dominguez, who has occasionally put up triple figures on speed shots since returning to tight end duties, as he returns this season from a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2020.
“I’ve been saying this all year, we have to be careful with him,” Thomson said. “It’s just a precaution, just to take the ball out of his hands and let him rest.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought there would come a time where we just had to give him a little bit of time, just let him breathe a little bit and heal. He hasn’t pitched in almost two years and this is his first full season, you know? So it’s hard.”
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What’s even more difficult is that the Phillies lost two of their closers in the blink of an eye in late August, though there is hope that Dominguez can return for most of the September stretch.
For now, deadline acquisition David Robertson is taking over as the Phillies near full capacity after he picked up his 17th save of the season (three with the Phils) in a 4-1 win over the Mets on Saturday night in the nightcap doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park.
On Aug. 2, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski traded respected pitching prospect Ben Brown to Chicago for the 37-year-old Robertson. Robertson signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract before the season. , was the Cubs’ top closer.
“He’s been a big addition, without a doubt,” Thomson said of Robertson, who is 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his 14th season with the Cubs and has not yet allowed an earned run in seven appearances with the Phils.
With Robertson as the closer, Thomson said he would rely on Connor Brogdon and Jose Alvarado as setup men, along with Andrew Belati, who would likely be Robertson’s backup.
Clearly, this bullpen, which has been more efficient than anyone expected, has taken a big hit. To ease the pain a bit, the Phillies brought in Tyler Cyr from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Sunday.
“He was a great thrower,” Thomson said of Cyr. “His velocity is up into the mid-90s, he has a really good split. . . . He may have gone two innings this year. He went back to back, ticked all the boxes. . . . I’m sure now that he’s in the big leagues, if we asked him to do two, he’d probably do two.”