In what has been described as one of the most challenging seasons of his career, Kenley Jansen continues to search for answers while hoping to prove his worthiness in the backend of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen.
After showing signs of decline last season, Jansen vowed to pitch more consistently this past Spring Traing in effort to stay on top of his game. That didn’t lend to consistent results, which prompted another change.
The Dodgers no longer solely deploy Jansen in just save situations, but rather at least once every series regardless of the scenario. The new usage plan came to fruition with the end goal of Jansen finding his groove before the postseason.
Indeed, the 31-year-old has shown glimpses of his old self in recent weeks. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts deemed it crucial that Jansen finishes the regular season on a strong note as a way to boost his and the club’s confidence, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“Very important,” Roberts said. “How many games do we have left, what is it – 12 games? So you’re talking about potentially four more appearances, something like that. It’s very important – for his confidence, for the team’s confidence. He understands that.”
With his season-long worth of inconsistencies in mind, Jansen has zeroed in on a few areas of improvement. He has specifically focused on his command as of late in order to reduce walks.
Furthermore, Jansen has worked extensively on righting his once-trusted cutter. The right-hander believes he finally has a feel for the pitch, which could go a long way toward his potential success in October.
Perhaps even more encouraging has been Jansen’s recent performance on the mound. He was in vintage form during the Dodgers’ recent East Coast road trip, appearing in two of the six contests and combining to toss two perfect innings against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets.
In six appearances during the month of September, Jansen has posted a stellar 1.78 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with seven strikeouts over 6.1 innings of work. Both numbers represent some of his best marks all season — another sign that he is beginning to turn a corner at an ideal time.
For the season as a whole, the all-time Dodgers saves leader owns a 5-3 record, 3.57 ERA, 3.61 FIP and 1.03 WHIP with 76 strikeouts against 14 walks in 58 innings pitched (57 games).