LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen made his 2015 season debut for the Dodgers on Friday night, pitching the eighth inning instead of the ninth as manager Don Mattingly wanted to ease his closer back into action three months removed from foot surgery.
Jansen made the eighth inning all his own, tying the major league record with four strikeouts in an inning. That feat was possible because on his first strikeout, of Carlos Gonzalez, the final pitch got away from catcher Yasmani Grandal for a passed ball, allowing Gonzalez to reach base.
Up only two runs, Jansen had little room for error, and was now facing the tying run at the plate.
He then fanned Nick Hundley, although Gonzalez stole second base. He followed with strikeouts of Drew Stubbs and D. J. LeMahieu to end the inning, walking off the mound to a standing ovation.
"When I was warming up for the eighth, I treated it like the ninth, like it was the last inning," Jansen recalled. "It felt great seeing the crowd get into it. I felt relieved. It got me excited."
Jansen needed only 14 pitches for his four strikeouts, including 13 for strikes. Not bad for a first time out.
He is the sixth Dodgers pitcher to strike out four in one inning, and the second in the last two seasons.
Jansen, who in his first full season as closer (2011) set a major league record with 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings, just smiled when told his 2015 number was now at 36.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
"That will definitely go down," he said.
Another thing that will definitely happen is Jansen returning to the closer role. It might not be his very next outing, but will be very soon after that if not. Jansen said that after his performance on Friday, he is ready to close games again.
"Yeah definitely, after that I think so," Jansen said, still smiling. "I felt great. I'm ready."
The Dodgers send Zack Greinke to the mound on looking for his sixth straight win to open the year. The Rockies counter with southpaw Jorge De La Rosa, making his fifth start of the season. Saturday is a 6:10 p.m. PT start, but is also Old Timers Day. Dodger Stadium gates open at 3:30 p.m., with the Old Timers Game starting at 4 p.m.