Among the several moves the Los Angeles Dodgers made to address their bullpen over the offseason included a trade for former Milwaukee Brewers closer Corey Knebel.
The right-hander not too long ago was one of baseball’s best relievers, but he struggled to the tune of a 6.08 ERA in 15 games last year. It marked his first work on a Major League mound since October 2018, as he would miss all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Now in his first season with the Dodgers, Knebel has been nothing short of impressive. He posted a 1.29 ERA in six Spring Training appearances and has gone on to compile 4.1 scoreless innings to begin the regular season.
One of Knebel’s biggest weapons is an improved curveball that he now throws with a different grip. “That was coming from coaches,” Knebel explained of the changes.
“That was something Bardo and Connor actually saw and said, ‘Why don’t you try and change this up a little bit?’ So I did. It’s been solid. Really liking how it’s turning right now.”
Knebel revealed that he was open to tweaking his curveball after finding difficulty throwing it post-operation. “That was one pitch that kind of took me a while to get back after Tommy John, so I was open to any suggestions,” he said.
“It was something that I couldn’t really remember exactly how I threw it and all. I think Bardo and Connor both did a pretty good job of helping me out with what I needed to do. I can’t complain about it all right now.
“It’s been a very consistent pitch for me so far this season. Just going to keep it going.”
Not only has Knebel rediscovered his curveball, but his velocity is also back up to what it was before undergoing Tommy John surgery. “I’ve got to think that’s been a huge part of it,” Knebel said of his early success.
“That was always the one thing I was inconsistent about, so now I’ve been working on a lot of consistency and having Connor, Bardo and Prior all watching and making sure everything is going alright. I’ve had solid stuff so far with it.”
Roberts believes Knebel can return to elite level
After an impressive spring, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is convinced Knebel can return to his previous All-Star form. “I think just watching him throughout the spring, the stuff has continued to tick up, you can see signs that it’s continuing to get better and better,” Roberts recently said.
“He’s getting stronger and stronger, the confidence is continuing to grow. We expected great things from Corey from the outset, but I still believe there’s a lot more upside as he gets more comfortable and kind of pitching regularly, which he hasn’t done in quite some time.
“But he’s an easy bet. I just love the player, love the person and obviously love his talent.”
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