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, the Phillies were thrown for a loop before the first inning of what turned out to be an excruciating 10-9 marathon Sunday.
Corey Knebel, a free agent acquisition who started the season as the closer, finished the season. Last week, due to Knebel’s right lat strain, doctors discovered a “tear of the shoulder capsule along with the lat,” according to interim manager Rob Thomson.
“He’s going to go to Texas tonight and get stem cell treatment,” Thomson said, “to try to avoid surgery as much as possible and try to get back into surgery as soon as he can.”
The optimistic plan for Knebel, who missed 92 games for the Dodgers last season with a right lat strain, is to regain his health and be ready for training next spring. The Phillies placed Knebel on the 60-day disabled list and he 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.
Knebel finishes his season with the Phils 3-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 12 saves.
“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 a “stiffness” in his right triceps. Thomson said Saturday that he did not learn of Dominguez’s problem until this morning.
“We sent him for X-rays last (Saturday) night to check for bone chips and stuff 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 some time, just let him breathe a little bit and heal up.”
So, in the blink of an eye in late August, the Phillies lost two key players, though there is hope that Dominguez could be back 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.
After doing so, Robertson took the loss on Sunday, giving up a homer to Marco Canha in the ninth inning.
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 went 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his 14th season with the Cubs and was hitless in seven games with the Phils until Sunday. .
With Robertson as the closer, Thomson said he would rely on Connor Brogdon (who gave up a homer Sunday against Canha) and Jose Alvarado as setup men, while Andrew Belati could be Robertson’s backup. And to fill Knebel’s roster spot, the Phils brought in Lehigh Valley’s Tyler Cyr Sunday. He ended up giving up the game-winning homer to the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo.