Dodgers Hopeful Kenley Jansen’s Velocity Will Benefit From Change In Offseason Workouts

Heading into the 2021 season perhaps the only question mark the Los Angeles Dodgers face is at the closer position.

While Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has already said Kenley Jansen will start the season as the team’s closer, he also made it clear that the leash will be shorter than years passed.

After being one of the most dominant relievers in baseball for the better part of a decade, Jansen has faltered a bit over the last few seasons and it ultimately was Julio Urias who closed out the team’s first World Series title since 1988.

Jansen is entering what could be his final season with the Dodgers, and there is no doubt he would like to regain and hold onto the closer role. Part of the groundwork to do so was laid in the offseason, when Jansen changed his routine.

“Some of it was the workouts, changing it to be a little bit more athletic. Maybe less bulk, less mass-strength. Just trying to get stuff that’s a little more ballistic and allowing his body to move a little bit freer,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior explained.

“Those were by design with Kenley and Brandon McDaniel, our performance coach. They had conversations back in October and November. Even in the playoffs, those are things we were talking about. He’s getting slightly older, so there’s always constant tweaking, but this was a little more of a focus to bring down the actual amount of weight we’re pushing around and see if we can make it more about how the body is moving and try to clean some of those things up.

“To Kenley’s credit, he was on bored and loved It. He’s been moving great. … His first bullpen, things were moving well. We’ll see what happens when batters are in there. Kenley knows where he’s at. He knows what he needs to do. He’s our closer and he’s been around here a long time, so he knows what he needs to do to help this team win ballgames.”

Arguably the driving factor behind the Dodgers working with Jansen on a new program was in response to his velocity varying so much from outing to outing. “It’s been something we’ve been trying to dive into for the better part of a year and a half, two years,” Prior acknowledged.

“Sometimes he comes out and it’s 89, 90 (mph), and other times it comes out and he’s 94, 95 We’ve tried our best to try to figure that out. … It’s something we’re aware of, it’s something we’ve been trying to unlock. I’ll be honest with you, we haven’t had success with it in the last year and a half, so we kind of changed course a little bit and tried something different this offseason.

“We’ll see how it plays out. He’s been moving great, been looking a lot more athletic with his throw, and we’re hoping that continues and shows some dividends once we get into games.”

Jansen again looks noticeably thinner since reporting to Spring Training, so it seems that he is fully committed to these new workouts that should help prolong his career.

Even though the 2020 season was a down year by Jansen’s standards, he still was solid for L.A. In 27 regular-season games, Jansen pitched to a 3.33 ERA, 3.03 FIP and 1.15 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and nine walks in 24.1 innings. He also had the lowest hard-hit rate in all of baseball.

Roberts believes Jansen ‘deserves’ closer role

Despite those solid numbers, Jansen remains on the hot seat going into 2021 as the Dodgers have no shortage of quality options who can fill the closer role.

Roberts believes Jansen is deserving of at least getting the job to start the season, so it will be up to him if he is able to keep it.

“For me, I think he’s earned that opportunity to start out as our closer,” Roberts said at the beginning of camp. “But at the end of the day, I want the guys that are pitching best to finish the game, and Kenley understands that.”

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