Once the equalizer to an at-times shaky Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen, Kenley Jansen has proven hittable over the course of the past two seasons. By all accounts, the team’s effort to keep their closer fresh by curtailing his workload during Spring Training last year has created unintended consequences.
A calculated delay in getting Jansen into Cactus League games was accompanied by minor hamstring trouble, and the combination wound up compromising his mechanics. Jansen has lost velocity on his patented cutter and seemingly been in a constant battle to recapture his dominant form.
Jansen’s past two appearances have summarized Jansen’s 2019 season. He blew a save against the Toronto Blue Jays by surrendering a game-tying home run to Rowdy Tellez, then left the bases loaded to help the Dodgers secure a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees his next time out.
Through it all, the 31-year-old has maintained confidence in his ability, which Jansen restated along with acknowledging a need to adapt some, per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez:
“It’s a game of adjustments,” Jansen said, “and I can still be so damn good if I make the adjustments. I just gotta be a little more smart.”
With Janen’s cutter velocity and late movement on the pitch down when compared to other seasons, there’s been an effort from the Dodgers to expand his arsenal. Although Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Jansen “went to the well too many times” against Tellez, the closer has thrown a slider 11.6% of the time this season.
It’s Jansen’s highest usage of the pitch since throwing it at a career-high 12.6% in 2011. He has additionally incorporated a two-seam fastball with more regularity, and Jansen’s usage of the cutter at 76% represents the lowest mark of his career.
Of course, that was what he resorted to throwing when the Yankees loaded the bases on soft contact and an overturned call at second base. In doing so, Jansen struck out Mike Tauchman and Gary Sanchez to end the game.
That naturally earned Jansen a rousing applause from the Dodger Stadium crowd, which was a complete change from being booed off the field Wednesday.