It was only fitting that Kenley Jansen’s season debut came in a high leverage situation.
With the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead in the 8th inning and only one out with two on, Dave Roberts went to his closer to shut down any hope of a Rockies come back. I’d be lying if I said my stress levels didn’t go way up, but Jansen looked as calm as ever.
He had to work with the first batter he faced, as C.J. Cron saw 6 pitches before flying out to Zach McKinstry. But that at-bat seemed to shake any nerves the closer had, as he sat down Ryan McMahon on three pitches, including a 94 MPH sinker that was absolutely filthy.
Following the game, the Dodgers’ sideline reporter Kirsten Watson asked Kenley how it felt to get back out on the mound and see some success early on.
It means a lot. I mean, There’s excitement, the offseason that we had.. you know we won a championship. But also for me, it was a lot of work to get back [to] where I used to be and just get back to my potential… Spring training was great and it was fun being out here again today.
This offseason was a tough one for the veteran closer, even though the team was coming off of their first title since 1988. While the team as a whole celebrated their accomplishment, Jansen had to face the fact that he wasn’t called upon when the outs mattered the most. Instead, he had to watch Julio Urías go out and close down the final two series in the postseason while he sat in the bullpen.
While he could have wallowed in self-pity, Jansen has instead worked extremely hard to make sure that he is ready to pitch in those spots in 2021. He looked extremely sharp on the mound all through spring training, and his success has seemingly transferred over to the regular season as well.
According to Dodgers reporter Juan Toribio, Jansen averaged 92.4 MPH on his sinker and 91.3 MPH on his cutter Saturday night. Let’s hope that this is the version of Kenley that we see throughout the season.