Knebel and the Brewers avoided arbitration Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $5.125 million deal, Robert Murray of The Athletic reports. Knebel had a rocky 2018 campaign which included a trip to the disabled list and a brief demotion to the minors. He still finished the year with a respectable 3.58 ERA and 16 saves in 55.1 innings, backed up by an excellent 39.5 percent strikeout rate. He looked back to his usual self in the playoffs, allowing just a single run in 10 innings. He should resume his role as the Brewers' closer to start the upcoming season.
Knebel struck out three batters and picked up his 16th save of the season in Monday's victory over the Cardinals. Incumbent closer Jeremy Jeffress was unavailable Monday due to neck spasms, so Knebel was used in his previous role, and he encountered no issues other than hitting the penultimate batter of the game. Knebel has looked like the 2017 version of himself his month, giving up just two hits while posting a 24:2 K:BB in 12.1 scoreless innings. Jeffress has been similarly effective and figures to get his job back, but the Brewers will also likely be cautious with him the rest of the way, so Knebel could be used in a save situation again before the regular season comes to a close.
Knebel pitched 1.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Wednesday's victory over the Cubs. He gave up just one hit and struck out two batters in the game. Knebel entered Wednesday's frame in the fifth inning with the Brewers up 2-0, and although he allowed an inherited runner to score, he did not cede the lead. Knebel went on to pitch a perfect sixth inning, but in a rare move, the official scorer decided to credit fellow reliever Josh Hader with the win instead in a game the Brewers never trailed and starter Chase Anderson only went four innings. Knebel picked up a save in his previous outing, but that was with Hader and Jeremy Jeffress unavailable, and it would likely take similar circumstances for him to be used in that spot the rest of the way. Regardless, Knebel has still been producing in several categories since returning from a brief minor-league stint at the end of August, allowing just one runner to reach base while striking out 12 batters over 6.2 scoreless frames this month.
The Brewers recalled Knebel from Triple-A Colorado Springs ahead of Sunday's game against the Nationals. Knebel wasn't included among the Brewers' first wave of callups Saturday, but that was only because he needed to spend a full 10 days in the minors after being optioned to Triple-A on Aug. 23. The demotion came a couple weeks after Knebel was bumped from the closer's role, as the right-hander didn't see his performance improve upon transitioning to middle-relief work. Now that he's back with Milwaukee, the 2017 All-Star will need to show improved command and control while working in lower-leverage situations before manager Craig Counsell can use him with confidence in key spots.
Knebel will rejoin the Brewers on Sunday, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Knebel has been trying to figure things out at Triple-A Colorado Springs over the last 10 days after an early-August demotion to a low-leverage role wasn't enough to turn his season around. He's struggled with both injury and inconsistency this season, posting a 5.08 ERA. He may have to regain manager Craig Counsell's trust in a middle-relief role before having a shot to regain closing duties, especially with current closer Jeremy Jeffress posting a 1.56 ERA in his last 15 outings.