Kenley Jansen was handled with extreme caution after a career season in 2017, and the Los Angeles Dodgers all-time saves leader has seemingly never recovered.
In response to a heavy workload that spanned across multiple seasons and pitching deep into October as the Dodgers reached their first World Series in 29 years, the club implemented a modified Spring Training schedule for Jansen in 2018.
It was thrown off course when he suffered from calf tightness, which further delayed his Cactus League debut. Jansen ultimately dealt with rust that lingered into the regular season, his velocity was diminished and mechanics grew out of sort.
He spent the year working to resolve the trouble, but never found a consistent solution. Although Jansen pitched more frequently during Spring Training this year, he’s yet recapture the once-dominant form.
Jansen did fare well in the series opener against the Miami Marlins, striking out the side to convert his 24th save of the season. Following the Dodgers’ 2-1 win, he spoke candidly about wanting to resemble his prior self, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Enough is enough, you know? I’m sick and tired of getting beat around and talking at the end of the game about different stuff. It’s not fun, and I’m just trying to have fun again. Just trying to get that attitude again to put a stop to it when hitters are trying to hurt me. It’s time to just go get it. … I just want to get out there and help my team win ballgames and make sure whenever I come in the game, knowing I’m going to bring that attitude I used to have. That whenever I come in the game, probably going to go home (with a win).”
Jansen expanded on his new mindset, dismissing any concern that his mechanics could again become compromised:
“I’m not thinking about mechanics or any of that stuff anymore. Like I said, I just want to have fun again. I’m just going to go out there and keep competing, keep getting better and make sure I get the last three outs. … Just be my old self and get it together.”
Jansen’s 3.63 ERA would be a career high, and with six home runs allowed, is nearly tracking to surpass his previous high mark of 13, set last year. Prior to the rocky 2018 campaign, Jansen had never allowed more than six homers in a single season.
Jansen’s brush with inconsistency ended a streak of All-Star Game selections at three years. While that came with some disappointment, the 31-year-old has continued to emphasize his focus and priority is squarely on helping the Dodgers capture an elusive World Series win.