Brewers counting on another top season Knebel, bullpen

February 16, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) The Milwaukee Brewers are counting on another top season from closer Corey Knebel to anchor a bullpen that was one of the National League's best last season.

''That was our biggest strength,'' Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

Milwaukee ranked among the NL's top five in ERA (3.83), strikeouts (615) and victories (27). Knebel had 39 saves in 45 chances, a 1.78 ERA and 126 batters in 76 innings - an average of 14.92 strikeouts per nine innings.

''I'm just going to try and do the same thing,'' Knebel said.

Left-hander Josh Hader will again work out of the bullpen. A starter through the minors, he had a 2.08 ERA in 35 relief appearances during his first big league season.

With emerging ace Jimmy Nelson out indefinitely while recovering from shoulder surgery, the Brewers debated whether Hader should return to the rotation before keeping him in the `pen for the season's start.

''I'm excited,'' Hader said. ''I'm excited where we're going.''

Right-hander Jacob Barnes began the season as an effective setup man but faltered midway through. Anthony Swarzak was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in July, pitched well and left to sign with the New York Mets.

Milwaukee bolstered its bullpen by adding left-handers Boone Logan and Wade Miley, and right-hander Matt Albers.

''Getting these new arms, guys who've had success, and putting them with the guys we're bringing back, all those guys are going to be big for us this year,'' Knebel said.

Milwaukee was third among NL teams in innings by relievers with 572 2/3, partly because starters struggled early in the season. Relievers also were a factor in the Brewers' stretch run - which finished one win short of forcing a playoff for the second wild card.

''They did a fantastic job in September,'' Counsell said.

Notes: Miley threw his first bullpen session after passing a physical. ... INF Nick Franklin also arrived a day after he agreed to a minor league deal. Franklin made 89 appearances for Milwaukee last season, batting .195 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs, then was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on June 30. He is expected to start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.


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