In going 4-2 on their recent road trip, the Los Angeles Dodgers received contributions from an array of relief pitchers. They added to encouraging results from the bullpen this month, and at the center of it was Kenley Jansen in his two appearances.
Against the Baltimore Orioles, Jansen had good movement and velocity, and though it was not in a save opportunity, followed that up with another quality inning of work to leave the Dodgers in position to rally for a comeback win against the New York Mets.
It was an encouraging sign during one of the roughest seasons of Jansen’s career, where the Dodgers’ all-time saves leader has sunk into mediocrity in his usual closer role. Jansen then converted a four-out save but struggled Wednesday.
Despite some of his inconsistency, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reiterated his belief that Jansen could still play a crucial role as the team gears up for its seventh consecutive postseason run, per Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:
“I think, with Kenley, we have this month, and we’re optimistic we’re going to get him into a really good spot. I fully anticipate that being the ninth inning. But, even if it wasn’t, it’s about getting him right. That’s all we’re focused on: getting him right. Once we get there, it will be about him getting really important outs and being a huge part of us winning the World Series.”
Friedman re-signed Jansen to a five-year, $80 million contract before the 2017 season, the richest contract either he or the Dodgers had ever given to a reliever.
Jansen enters play Saturday with a 3.81 ERA, by far a career-high, over 59 innings this season. His 30 saves are the lowest in a season since 2013, when Jansen was promoted to closer midseason.
However, the two-time All-Star remains a vocal leader within the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Jansen, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the only players who have remained on the team’s roster since their run of seven straight NL West titles began in 2013, a run that even predates Roberts and Friedman in their current roles.
Ryu, of course, essentially missed two seasons due to a torn shoulder labrum.
Jansen has not hidden his frustration with how 2019 has gone for him, but has also expressed confidence that he could return to his old form. At his peak, Jansen was one of the best relievers in baseball, with a 1.58 ERA and 88 saves during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said this week he was not giving any consideration to potentially removing Jansen from his role.