Just as the 2011 season ended for the Dodgers, Javy Guerra is the closer with Kenley Jansen as setup man as 2012 spring training camp opens. Guerra excelled as a rookie in 2011, making the jump from Double A Chattanooga to the back end of the Dodgers bullpen, striking out 38 in 47 innings with a 2.31 ERA while converting 21 of 23 save opportunities. Jansen meanwhile set a major league record by striking out 16.1 batters per nine innings and was nearly unhittable in the last four months of the season, allowing two runs and 10 hits over his final 31 appearances.
"Javy, to me, didn't do anything last year to say he shouldn't be that guy," manager Don Mattingly said on Tuesday. "More than anything, Kenley was saying 'Hey I can do that too' by the way he pitched. It's a good problem for us to have."
"Javy has been here one year," said Mattingly. "It's a competition, you still have to perform. There have been a lot of guys in their first year were really good and struggled the next year. Kenley was a perfect example, as he wasn't himself [to start 2011] that he was the year before. It took him a half a season with little problems here and there, and he was in the minors for a little bit, but next thing you know he emerged back to what we had seen the year before."
Both Guerra and Jansen aren't concerned about their roles, especially six weeks before opening day.
"I don't worry about that stuff. Overall I think we have tons of arms in here, and my goal is to just throw strikes," Guerra said, though he did note that he takes pride in closing games. Guerra didn't play winter ball this offseason for the first time in his career, at the request of Dodgers management.
"Bottom line is [who is closing] doesn't matter," said Jansen, whose locker at Camelback Ranch is two stalls from Guerra, which made for good humor as both men answered questions about their relative roles within earshot of the other. "The eighth inning is just like the ninth inning. When the game is close, you just have to focus to close it out."
When Jansen was asked if he wanted to close, he said, "Yes, but I'm not going to stress and worry about it. I'm going to go out there whenever they want me to and get stuff done and help the team to win."
Jansen said he has no recurring problems from the cardiac arrhythmia that sidelined him for a month last season, noting that he has just had to watch his diet, which was a challenge with his mother's home cooking during the offseason.
Even though Jansen is not his closer for now, Mattingly is still enamored with his flame-throwing right-hander, adding, "With Kenley, you feel like you can kind of do anything."
Here are some more bullpen notes from the first day of camp:
- "It's not like he's a bad guy, or you don't like him. But to this point he's been tough to count on," Mattingly said of relief pitcher Ronald Belisario, who is here in camp, but was not available for reporters as he left for a dental appontment. "It's a step in the right direction that he's here."
- Blake Hawksworth, who is out of options, will not be ready for opening day. The relief pitcher had arthroscopic surgery to clean up scar tissue in his right elbow on January 11, but he had an infection stemming from the procedure that required a second surgery to repair. Mattingly said Hawksworth is 2-3 weeks behind schedule from his original rehabilitation plan.
- When asked if he was comfortable with a second left-hander in the bullpen, in addition to southpaw Scott Elbert, Mattingly said "I'm comfortable with the best arms."
Matt Guerrier is essentially the seventh inning reliever in the bullpen
- Mattingly said he is comfortable with Mike MacDougal in just about any inning, from the sixth to the ninth.
- One of the funnier moments of the day was when Mattingly slipped and accidentally referred to Todd Coffey as Todd Jones, the former Detroit Tigers closer with a similar body type as Coffey