Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers held their first workout of 2021 Spring Training on Thursday, and among the topics addressed by manager Dave Roberts was the closer role.
There’s some uncertainty surrounding the position after Kenley Jansen endured a disappointing end to the 2020 season. He essentially lost his job in the postseason as he was passed over for save opportunities by the likes of Blake Treinen and Julio Urias.
Despite the Dodgers’ apparently losing some confidence in Jansen down the stretch, Roberts believes the right-hander has earned the opportunity to begin the upcoming season as the club’s closer.
“No, I haven’t had that conversation with Kenley,” Roberts said of speaking to Jansen about closing. “I think with the way last year ended, and Kenley had a really good year last year. I think he led Major League Baseball in soft contact off the bat.
“I don’t think he was pitching his best in the postseason, but this is a new year. I expect him to have a great year. For me, I think he’s earned that opportunity to start out as our closer. But at the end of the day, I want the guys that are pitching best to finish the game, and Kenley understands that.”
While Roberts would prefer Jansen closing on Opening Day, he doesn’t feel the need to define bullpen roles due to the abundance of options that can finish games. “I’ve talked about it before in the sense that I believe we’re our best if Kenley is closing for us,” Roberts reiterated.
“But with that said, we have a lot of great, viable options to finish a game. So right now, that’s kind of where it’s at. Kenley looks fantastic and as I sit here right now, I expect him to close that first game out of the season.”
Earlier in the offseason, Roberts explained his best-case scenario would be Jansen remaining the Dodgers’ closer. However, the club has several relievers that are capable of pitching the ninth inning, including former Milwaukee Brewers closer Corey Knebel, who is looking to build off a strong finish to the 2020 campaign.
The club also re-signed Treinen and reunited with Brandon Morrow on a Minor League contract, who notched two saves as the primary setup man in 2017.
Is Urias an option to close?
One pitcher that doesn’t appear to be an option to close games is Urias, who reportedly has an inside track to claim the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation over Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
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