Phillies move struggling Corey Knebel out of the closer role
Rob Thomson will use Knebel in lower-leverage spots and rotate other relievers to close.
After a disastrous outing on Tuesday night in which he threw 16 pitches and only four strikes, Phillies reliever Corey Knebel will be moved out of the closer role and used in lower-leverage situations.
Knebel was credited with the loss and the blown save (his fourth of the season) as the Phillies fell to the Marlins, 11-9, on Tuesday night after allowing a hit, three runs and two walks. He has a 4.26 ERA through his last seven appearances.
Knebel said on Tuesday that he feels fine physically and doesn’t believe his outing was related to mechanical issues.
“I went and looked at it,” he said. “I thought everything mechanical-wise looked good. It just didn’t go over the plate. That’s it.”
Knebel was shut down on Saturday as a precaution because he felt tightness in his right shoulder. Tuesday night was his first outing since he was shut down, but Knebel didn’t believe that contributed to his struggles.
Interim manager Rob Thomson said for Knebel to win back the ninth inning, he needs to see more consistency from the veteran reliever.
“Just that he’s throwing strikes, throwing the ball where he wants to,” Thomson said on Wednesday. “Planting the breaking ball. And he will.”
“He was very professional about it,” Thomson added. “He wants the ball. He’s a competitor. He wants that ninth inning, and I want that ninth inning [for him] as well. And hopefully in a couple days we’ll get him back.”
Thomson said for now the Phillies will rotate through different relievers in the ninth inning, depending on the situation. Right-hander Seranthony Domínguez and left-hander Brad Hand are possibilities for that role. Domínguez has a 1.88 ERA with 32 strikeouts through 25 games this season. Hand has a 1.96 ERA through 26 games.
Thomson hopes Knebel can find his command sooner rather than later.
“He told me today he felt good, he felt strong,” Thomson said Wednesday. “He was 97-98 mph last night. That’s probably the hardest he’s thrown all year, it’s just scattered. So, whatever it is, whether it’s mechanics or whatever, once he finds it, gets the ball back in the zone, we’ll have our guy back.”
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin was pulled from his start at 80 pitches on Tuesday night because he was feeling some soreness and tightness in his right knee. Thomson said Eflin felt “better” on Wednesday but is still going to see a doctor.
Eflin still is scheduled to start Sunday in Washington. Zack Wheeler will make Thursday’s start, Ranger Suárez and Bailey Falter will split Friday’s doubleheader, and Aaron Nola will start on Saturday.