PHOENIX — Kenley Jansen pitched another scoreless inning on Saturday against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch, continuing his methodical build toward the regular season.
The Dodgers closer approaches spring training much like the horses in Jerry Seinfeld’s old bit. “No competition here, the most important thing is your health!”
Jansen struck out a batter Saturday and got a pair of ground outs, and put that pitchers fielding practice to the test by covering first base on a ball to the right side. Back in the clubhouse with the White Sox broadcast showing on the internal Camelback Ranch feed, the announcers referred to Jansen as “an out machine.”
“Don’t jinx it,” Jansen said, probably only half-joking.
For someone who is used to ‘California Love’ blaring when he enters late in close games, pitching the fifth inning of an exhibition game in March doesn’t have the same juice.
“The adrenaline’s not there, I’m not going to lie. The first day the adrenaline was there. We all know it’s spring training,” Jansen said. “I know already it’s going to be there opening day, it’s nothing to worry about. I just have to make sure I get my innings in.”
There is a plan for how and when Jansen will get those innings in. His next outing is expected to be Monday night against the A’s, followed by a Thursday appearance in which he will be asked to get four outs. Jansen had 14 games during the 2017 regular season in which he recorded more than three outs.
Finally, Jansen will pitch in back-to-back games during the Freeway Series against the Angels, likely Sunday in Anaheim and Monday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have a split squad on Sunday, playing the Brewers in Maryvale and also hosting the Padres at Camelback Ranch. There was some talk of Clayton Kershaw starting on the back fields in a minor league game on Sunday but common sense prevailed and he will pitch against San Diego.
The usual thought behind such maneuvers is to avoid giving a division rival a free look at a starting pitcher, especially so close to the season and if there are several early-year matchups coming up.
But the Dodgers only play the Padres one series in April, a three-game set in San Diego from April 16-18. Also, it’s the Padres, not a contending team. That, and Kershaw preferred pitching in a major league spring game rather than against minor leaguers.
“For Clayton to pitch against a division opponent, when he would potentially see the Padres played into it. And the thought that he would rather pitch in an A game versus the back fields,” manager Dave Roberts said. “All those variables led to that decision.”
Kershaw has yet to allow a run this spring in four starts, with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 9⅔ innings.
Manny Banuelos will start for the Dodgers in the road game against Milwaukee on Sunday, with relievers Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields and Pat Venditte also likely to make the bus trip. Adam Liberatore is among the relief pitchers expected to pitch Sunday at Camelback Ranch.