While the state of the Dodgers‘ bullpen was one of the most heavily discussed topics of the winter, it comes as no surprise that many eyes have been focused on Kenley Jansen during the early days of spring camp at Camelback Ranch.
In previous years, Kenley was known for his very slow starts in spring training, as he preferred to take very cautious approaches at the beginning.
In 2018, after he threw just 4-2/3 innings over five appearances during Cactus League play, Jansen strained a hamstring early during the regular season. He struggled mightily—his velocity dipped (much to the chagrin of the fans) and his ERA rose to a whopping 5.59 ERA with three blown saves and three homers allowed over the first few weeks of the season.
Eventually, Jansen remedied his mechanical issues and regained his All-Star form in early May of 2018. He had a 1.41 ERA over 41 appearances from May 1 through August 7, converting 29 of 30 save opportunities and lowering his season ERA to 2.15.
Last year, Jansen’s approach in spring training was also a slow one, primarily because of the heart procedure he endured the previous winter. He ended up throwing a little bit more than he did in 2018—6-1/3 innings over seven appearances—but probably not as much as he would have liked.
This year, though, it seems as if Jansen will be taking a more aggressive approach.
Bill Plunkett of the OC Register noted on Saturday morning that Jansen sought out the help of Driveline Baseball over the winter with hopes of rediscovering some of his old traits that led to success in previous seasons.
During the 2019 regular season, Kenley posted a 3.71 ERA (the highest of his career) and a 1.063 WHIP (the second-highest of his career) over 62 appearances and an even 63 innings of work. His ineffectiveness—especially towards the latter part of the year—conceivably led skipper Dave Roberts to lean towards alternate options, most notably in Game 5 against the Nationals in the NLDS.
Nevertheless, one of the potentially biggest additions of the offseason came with righty reliever Blake Treinen arriving in Los Angeles. With the inclusion of the always-dependable Pedro Baez and an effective Joe Kelly (among several others), there’s some conjecture that the Los Angeles bullpen could be among the best in baseball.
Especially if Kenley can find his peak form early.