Prior to the start of their three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up a successful nine-game homestand by completing a sweep of the rival San Diego Padres.
Kenley Jansen appeared in both contests and managed to record saves 13 and 14 on the season. He logged a combined two scoreless innings but labored at times, throwing a combined 41 pitches in his outings.
Also attributing to Jansen’s difficulties on the mound were his disagreements with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin over pitch selection. The 31-year-old often shook off the pair of Dodgers catchers as they struggled to find common ground on pitches.
Jansen preferred to continue deploying his cutter while Barnes and Martin suggested he throw a different pitch. The all-time Dodgers saves leader chalked up the miscommunication to a simple mixup of signals.
Jansen maintained there are no issues between him and Barnes and Martin, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“There’s no drama in here,” said Jansen, who has converted 14 of 16 save opportunities and allowed nine earned runs in 20⅓ innings. “And there’s nothing to talk about, honestly.”
Jansen additionally met with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to clear the air over the perception he was unwilling to deviate from his preference.
Jansen’s reluctance to shift away from his once-trusted cutter is understandable, considering all of the success he enjoyed when throwing the pitch earlier in his career.
But having seen his velocity drop over the past two seasons, it may make sense for him to begin utilizing other pitches more often, such as his two-seam fastball and slider.
After an excellent start to his 2019 campaign, Jansen hasn’t been as sharp during the month of May. He allowed a walk-off grand slam to Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe two weeks ago that resulted in his ERA increasing to a season-high 4.67 at the time.
Jansen has since bounced back with three consecutive scoreless outings against the Washington Nationals and Padres.
All-in-all, Jansen owns a career-worst 3.98 ERA, 3.64 FIP and 1.03 WHIP with 28 strikeouts compared to five walks over 20.1 innings pitched this season (20 games). He has converted 14-of-16 save opportunities, but is currently allowing a career-high 1.8 home runs per nine that can be tied to many of his struggles thus far.