After Brandon League blew two of four save opportunities in June 2013, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager had little choice but to replace League with Kenley Jansen as the club’s closer.
Jansen, a former catcher, signed with the Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of Curacao in 2004. He made his Major League debut in July 2010 as a reliever, recording two strikeouts in one inning against the New York Mets.
As the Dodgers have continued to cycle through relievers in effort to assemble a consistent bullpen, Jansen has been stabilizing force in the ninth inning since being handed the reins.
He converted 25 saves in 2012, 28 in 2013, a career-high 44 in 2014 and 36 last season. There have of course been some bumps along the way, but the hard-throwing right-hander has routinely bounced back from any adversity faced.
While Jansen has garnered plenty of accolades for his performance, a strong friendship with teammate and fellow reliever J.P. Howell has been instrumental for the closer.
According to Cary Osborne of Dodger Insider, Jansen views Howell as a big brother who has aided him with on- and off-the-field matters:
“All that stuff he’s done, he’s been consistent — not just in a Dodger uniform,” Jansen said. “I pick his brain all the time off the field and on the field. For me, he’s a great guy to keep hanging around. I feel like he makes me better. … After James Loney left, the guy I could trust was J.P.,” Jansen said. “He’s like my big brother. Anything I can talk about on the field, off the field to get my mind set and straight, he’s always there for me. He’s been through it.”
Jansen went on to provide more details as to what he’s learned from Howell:
“Mentally he helped me a lot developmentally,” Jansen said. “He’s strong. And those games you have to bounce back, he’s been through all that. That’s why our relationship is so good. … I have so much respect and try to be humble and listen to him,” Jansen said. “To see how he goes about his business, to see how he prepares himself (is influential). Sometimes as a young guy, you just go out there and play catch and have fun. But being with J.P., he didn’t have to tell me, he showed me that it’s time to get focused and get concentrated. And these ﬁve, 10 minutes you warm up, be serious and have a purpose. Those are the kinds of things that helped me be better.”
The relievers have been teammates since 2013 and are on track to spend at least one more season together. Howell exercised his $6.25 million player option for 2016, while Jansen was one of six Dodgers tendered a contract last month.