Kenley Jansen Biography & Los Angeles Dodgers Career
Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen walks off the field after pitching against the Boston Red Sox
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Kenley Jansen was born on Sept. 30, 1987, in Willemstad, Curaçao. He is the youngest of three sons and first started playing baseball at the age of six.

Jansen began as an outfielder before moving to shortstop, and then moved again to first base when he started playing with Andrelton Simmons.

Jansen also played catcher, and eventually was signed as an undrafted free agent backstop by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 17, 2004.

Minor League career

After signing with the Dodgers, Jansen was assigned to Rookie class Gulf Coast, where he played in 37 games and hit .304. He was then promoted to Rookie-level Ogden in August and finished the season with two hits in 11 at-bats across three games.

Jansen was back with Gulf Coast in 2006 and hit .245 in 35 games. He then split the 2007 season between Ogden and Low-A Great Lakes, batting a combined .207 in 73 games. He spent the entire 2008 season playing with Great Lakes, hitting .227 in 79 games.

Jansen got his first opportunity on the big stage in 2009 when he was the starting catcher for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. After another poor offensive Minor League season in 2009 though, the Dodgers convinced him to make the switch to pitching.

The decision obviously ended up being a good one, as Jansen skyrocketed through the Minor Leagues as a pitcher. He was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in Nov. 2009, and after posting a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings for Double-A Chatanooga in 2010, he earned his first promotion to the big leagues on July 23.

Dodgers career

Jansen made his Major League debut on July 24, 2010, tossing a perfect inning while striking out two against the New York Mets. He then recorded his first MLB save the next day with another scoreless inning against the Mets.

The right-hander was unhittable to finish out the 2010 season, posting a 0.67 ERA with four saves in 27 innings across 25 appearances. That propelled him to making the Opening Day roster in 2011, where he became an essential part of the Dodgers’ bullpen and hasn’t looked back.

Jansen did not become the Dodgers’ primary closer until 2012, but he was still dominant in 2011, posting a 2.85 ERA in 53.2 innings across 51 games. He also struck out 96 batters, setting a new Major League season record with ​16.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

After Javy Guerra struggled in the closer role to start the 2012 season, Jansen took over and completed 25 saves while yielding a 2.35 ERA in 65 appearances. He missed some time due to a heart issue though, which has forced him to undergo two surgeries in 2012 and 2018.

Jansen continued to be dominant closing out games for the Dodgers from 2013-15, posting a 1.88 ERA with 28 saves in 75 games in 2013, a 2.76 ERA with 44 saves in 68 games in 2014 and a 2.41 ERA with 36 saves in 54 games in 2015.

He missed the first month and a half of the 2015 season after undergoing foot surgery. The 2016 season marked the first of three consecutive All-Star seasons for Jansen on the Dodgers. He had 47 saves with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games that season.

On June 20, 2016, Jansen picked up his 162nd career save against the Washington Nationals, breaking the all-time franchise record held by Eric Gagné. He was named the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award recipient, given to the best reliever in the National League, in both 2016 and 2017.

After a solid postseason in which he came through in a big spot in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Nationals, Jansen reached free agency for the first time. He ultimately ended up back with the Dodgers though after signing a five-year, $80 million contract.

The 2017 season was perhaps Jansen’s best as he began the year by striking out 36 batters without walking any, which marked a Major League record. He finished the year with 41 saves and a 1.32 ERA in 65 games, striking out 109 compared to just seven walks in 68.1 innings.

Jansen was great for the Dodgers in the 2017 postseason as well until the World Series when he gave up a game-tying home run to Marwin Gonzalez to blow a save in Game 2 against the Houston Astros and then served up a walk-off single to Alex Bregman in the 10th inning of a crazy Game 5.

The Astros have since been caught cheating in that World Series, being disciplined by the league for electronic sign stealing.

After pitching so many innings in the 2017 postseason, the Dodgers slow-played Jansen to begin Spring Training in 2018 and the result was a rough April. He wound up turning things around and had another All-Star season in which he had 38 saves with a 3.01 ERA in 69 games.

He spent some time on the injured list in August after his heart issues reappeared after a trip to the high altitude in Colorado. Jansen was forced to undergo a second heart surgery, although he postponed it to the offseason to finish out the year with his teammates.

Jansen returned to Colorado in April of 2019 and with his new surgically-repaired heart, he recorded a four-out save on April 7. The 2019 season was perhaps Jansen’s worst with the Dodgers as he blew a career-high eight saves in 41 opportunities while posting a career-worst 3.71 ERA.

His closer status was rocky going into the postseason, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts elected to go with other relievers before him in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals in which L.A. blew a late 3-1 lead and ultimately lost, 7-3.

Knowing he needed to get back on track and get his cutter working again in 2020, Jansen worked out with Driveline Baseball during the offseason leading into 2020.