The Los Angeles Dodgers’ model for building a bullpen in recent years has been to buy low on pitchers with past success, hoping they can help them regain that form after dealing with a significant injury.
One of their acquisitions this past offseason was Corey Knebel, who was a former All-Star closer with the Milwaukee Brewers but missed all of 2019 and most of 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Knebel is now healthy and still just 29 years of age, so the Dodgers are hoping he can get back to his 2017 form when he posted a 1.78 ERA with 126 strikeouts in 76 innings.
Speaking to the media for the first time at Spring Training, Knebel acknowledged that the Dodgers seeing something in him was a huge confidence booster. “Look, if they’re going to go out of their way and trade for me, of course they see something that maybe I didn’t last year,” he said.
“It gives you a little bit of confidence. I know there’s plenty of guys here that are going to get me right and they’re going to do whatever they have to do. I’m in a good spot.”
Knebel then went on to speak about his health, explaining a belief he is trending in the right direction. “I’m feeling like I’m a lot closer than I was last year,” the right-hander said.
“Right now I feel like I’m in a great spot. We’ve got a whole month and week of Spring Training left, so I’m feeling confident I can get close or right back to where I used to be.”
Knebel was able to appear 15 games for the Brewers last season, although his velocity was down and he clearly didn’t look like himself. That was attributed to mechanical issues that needed correcting.
“I’d say it was kind of the process of learning how to pitch again. One of the main things I’ve been trying to work on is lower body positioning,” Knebel explained. “Once I can get everything synced, it starts clicking a little bit more. I had a couple times last year where there was some velo.
“I had changed things with my mechanics, so I know the velo is there and my arm is healthy. All I know is I have to get my legs in the right position, be able to explode in my lower half and everything will kind of click.”
Knebel describes rehab process
Tommy John surgery is known to be among the most serious in baseball, especially for pitchers who rely on their arms to be successful. The rehab process is long and tedious, which Knebel described as having to learn how to pitch all over again.
“It went different from what I thought it was going to be. One thing, actually, the team doctor here, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, was my surgeon. One thing he told me was I need to start watching a lot of video of myself, which I never really liked to do,” Knebel said.
“I had to watch a lot of video of my throwing motion, my mechanics, where my arm angle was to make sure I’m in the right spot. My arm angle was a little lower than what it was in ’17, ’18 and all those years before, so that was one thing trying to get all that back. Where my left foot was landing, how low I was in my right half when I’m coming down the slope.
“So it’s just a whole learning process. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to think about every time you’re going. Finally I’m at the stage where I can stop thinking about where my lower half is, where my arm angle is. Just go out there and throw.
“I think that was the toughest part: trying to throw and all you can think about is what everything else is doing. Now I’m in a good spot and past all that.”
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