Kenley Jansen closed out Tuesday afternoon’s win with a dominant ninth inning, needing only 10 pitches for a perfect inning, striking out two. He threw harder than he has in nearly three years, but also impressed by taking a little off.
Jansen’s first pitch to Kyle Seager was a two-seam fastball at 96.6 mph, then two pitches later another fastball came in at 97.0 mph per Baseball Savant. That’s the fastest pitch Jansen has thrown since June 8, 2018 against the Braves, per Brooks Baseball.
“It’s been a couple years. There’s been glimpses and peaks, but this is good,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “The way he’s throwing the ball, he’s got a little more clarity on the mound, and knows what he wants to do. He wants to attack guys.”
His cutter also had movement, like this one to strike out Kyle Lewis.
Kenley Jansen, Ridiculous 95mph Cutter. pic.twitter.com/7a60qSKpnr— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 20, 2021
But after nine pitches in the inning — five two-seamers averaging 94.4 mph, and four cutters averaging 92.5 mph, both roughly three mph better than his seasonal average — Jansen went with a slider at 83.7 mph to finish off Seager swinging for the final out of the game.
It was only the ninth time this season Jansen has thrown a slider, seven percent of his total pitches.
“With his mix, sometimes he gets a bit clouded with his pitch selection,” Barnes said. “They have to go hit him, and that’s good.”
“Kenley for the most part is a one-pitch pitcher. He’s also got the two-seamer, but everything is hard,” Dave Roberts said. “Now you can get something a little bit more down, a little slower, just to get guys off [the fastball]. He tunneled it really well.”
Jansen pitched Tuesday on three days rest, and in his five outings on two or more days rest this season he has yet to allow a run, with eight strikeouts and three walks. Roberts said while there are benefits to getting Jansen and other relievers rest when needed, it’s not always possible. For instance, after Wednesday’s off day the Dodgers play 14 straight days.
“There are certain game situations, with respect to how other guys are being used, you still have to go out there and pitch,” Roberts said. “It’s not a hard and fast rule that he doesn’t go back-to-back. We’ll evaluate as the season goes on.”
But maybe if the Dodgers have a late lead on Thursday against the Padres, perhaps Corey Knebel, who would be on five days rest, and/or Blake Treinen, who will be on four days rest, could be used, giving Jansen an extra day. But one thing is certain, the seven innings by Julio Urías on Tuesday helped alleviate most of the rest concerns among Dodgers relievers.
“We needed all those outs, going into the series against the Padres, getting our guys rested,” Roberts said. “You win with starting pitching, and Julio really reset things, and set the tone today for all of us.”
On the mend
The Dodgers still expect Gavin Lux to be activated on Monday, his first day eligible to return from the injured list. Roberts said the plan is for Lux, sidelined with wrist soreness, to take batting practice on Thursday at Dodger Stadium and to face live pitching at some point over the weekend.
The path for Cody Bellinger’s return is less clear. He hasn’t played since April 5, when he was spiked in two spots on his left calf in Oakland. Last week, after Bellinger wasn’t progressing as planned, further tests revealed a hairline fracture in his left fibula.
In an interview last Friday with Alanna Rizzo on MLB Network, Roberts said Bellinger would miss “at least another week or two,” but on Tuesday Roberts declined to put a timetable on when Bellinger might be ready. One thing seems certain though — Bellinger will likely play some games at the alternate site in Arizona before he is activated from the injured list.
“It’s kind of day to day as far as his progression, and once he starts taking at-bats and running at full speed, then we’ll have a better idea,” Roberts said. “With the alt site, to have the ability for him to take as many at-bats as he needs, play defense, see pitches, it’s just a better forum compared to what we have here.”
The Dodgers are off Wednesday before returning home for another showdown series against the Padres, this time for four games at Dodger Stadium. Walker Buehler starts on Thursday against Ryan Weathers in a rematch of last Friday in San Diego.