Brewers Got Something In Knebel, Sardinas
By: Ryan Kaufman
With all apologies to the band Tesla, they wrote the lyrics backwards in their song, “What You Give.” It’s not what you give, it’s what you got.
This offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers gave Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers. What they got, was a pitcher with the ability to close games and a shortstop that already has a Major League-caliber glove and a steadily improving bat.
The Brewers definitely got something in Corey Knebel and Luis Sardinas and the pair is happy for the opportunity to prove the Brewers got something for what they gave.
Knebel enters 2015 as MillerParkProspects.com’s 11th ranked player in the Brewers Farm System. The trade from Texas to Milwaukee was the second time in a year in which Knebel changed teams. For most people, moving can be a hassle, but Knebel views it as a new opportunity. “Probably twenty minutes after the trade I was excited,” Knebel says. “I was ready to become a Brewer.”
After being drafted by Detroit in 2013, it took him only a year to make his way up from Single-A to the Majors. He appeared in eight games for the Tigers in 2014 and struck out 11 hitters in 8 2/3 innings. Once a player gets a taste of the bigs, it is hard to accept going back down, but Knebel realizes a little extra seasoning could pay dividends down the road.
“I’m still young,” Knebel says with a smile. “I haven’t had too many years of pro ball yet so I think having more time at Triple-A is really good for me.”
Knebel was a closer at the University of Texas, where he recorded 19 saves as a Freshman and he converted 15 of 16 save opportunities his first year in professional baseball at Single-A West Michigan. Scouts say he has the ability to be a closer at the highest level, but there is competition for the job in Colorado Springs. Sitting in the bullpen at Security Service Field will also be David Goforth and Chris Perez.
Goforth recorded 27 saves in 2014 at Double-A Huntsville and was a Double-A Southern League All-Star. Perez is a 2-time Major League Baseball All-Star as the closer for the Cleveland Indians and has 133 career MLB saves. This presents an interesting dilemma for Sky Sox Manager Rick Sweet.
“We don’t really have ‘a guy’,” Sweet says when asked about who will be his everyday closer. “They’ll (Knebel, Goforth, and Perez) be our late inning guys.”
The competitor in Corey Knebel wants to be the one called upon every night to shut the door in the 9th inning, but he realizes that may not be the case all the time.
“I think everyone wants to be a closer at some point, but I think my role might be middle relief maybe at the later part of the game.”
The competition for closer will play out in one of the most pitcher-unfriendly parks in professional baseball. Located at 6,000-plus feet, Security Service Field has had the reputation of thinning out the field (no pun intended). Knebel learned this the hard way.
“When I pitched here last year, I noticed a few things,” Knebel says wryly. “My first at-bat I gave up a bomb.”
After that rough introduction to pitching at altitude, Knebel learned a valuable lesson that he will remember throughout this season.
“You can’t try too hard.” Corey acknowledges. “You can do well here, but you still got to learn how to keep the ball down.”
If Knebel keeps the ball down, the chances are good that Luis Sardinas will make the play at shortstop. Also coming over in the offseason trade with Texas, Sardinas will be the everyday shortstop in Colorado Springs.
Considered able to play defense at the Major League level, the perceived shortcoming in his game is at the plate. Sardinas has not hit above .300 in the last three seasons, batting a combined .281 splitting time between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in 2014. He appeared in 43 games for the Rangers last year and batted .261. Sardinas does not let perception become his reality.
“I don’t listen to the scouting reports,” Sardinas says defiantly. “I’m working every day, both on my offense and my defense.”
The Venezuelan born Sardinas spent time with in the Brewers big league camp this spring. He was battling for a utility-type role with the club and made it very hard on the organization to send him down, collecting seven hits in his last nine at-bats of March. While it was not enough to break camp with Milwaukee, the 21-year-old is motivated to put pressure on the Brewers brass.
“I don’t control that decision, you only control staying healthy and your play,” Sardinas says. “I’m going to work hard to try to get back to the big leagues, that’s the only thing on my mind.”
Both Luis Sardinas and Corey Knebel want to be playing in Miller Park sooner rather than later. Once they do get called-up, it will show the Rangers and Major League Baseball that the Brewers got something for what they gave.
What Tesla said may have been true in the 80’s, but its 2015, the year of Corey Knebel and Luis Sardinas.