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Despite sitting out G2, Jansen still LA's closer

Roberts aware of velo dip, but all else 'right where it needed to be'
@kengurnick
October 2, 2020

After bringing rookie Brusdar Graterol in for his first career save that clinched the National League Wild Card Series on Thursday, manager Dave Roberts reiterated that Kenley Jansen is his closer. The mixed messages are the latest in the side drama to this two-game series in which Jansen saved Game

After bringing rookie Brusdar Graterol in for his first career save that clinched the National League Wild Card Series on Thursday, manager Dave Roberts reiterated that Kenley Jansen is his closer.

The mixed messages are the latest in the side drama to this two-game series in which Jansen saved Game 1, after which Roberts said that Jansen’s pitches lacked their usual “teeth,” only to backpedal on Thursday.

Before Game 2, Roberts said Jansen “absolutely” was his closer and that, upon video review, his Game 1 outing was “much better than I expected and than I thought.”

But after Clayton Kershaw fired eight spectacular scoreless innings, Graterol got the ball for the ninth inning. He had to work around a leadoff single to close it out, while Jansen, the most decorated closer in club history, watched from the bullpen.

“It was just more of, Kenley pitched last night, he was available, but just the same run of hitters -- he’s our closer,” said Roberts. “I just felt Brusdar, these guys hadn’t seen him. Kenley’s going to close out many games for us as we go forward. He understands that it’s about the team and helping us win baseball games. Kenley is all-in on what it takes for us to win baseball games.”

In Game 1, Jansen allowed a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Jace Peterson, and two of his cutters were clocked at 86 mph, prompting Roberts to warm up Graterol.

“I can make assessments from the side, but I can’t really appreciate what the baseball is doing and the swings,” said Roberts. “I thought it was much better than I expected and then I thought. You just take away that Jace Peterson at-bat, and everything else was right where it needed to be.”

Game Date Matchup TV
Gm 1 Sept. 30 LAD 4, MIL 2 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 1 LAD 3, MIL 0 Watch

Jansen got Eric Sogard to fly out to center field on an 0-1 pitch, Keston Huira to ground to shortstop on a 1-2 pitch, and after the walk to Peterson, Christian Yelich to strike out on a 2-2 pitch. He threw 16 pitches -- nine strikes and seven balls.

None of Jansen’s nine cutters reached 90 mph, and three of four to Pederson were 87.1 mph or slower. His two-seamer topped out at 91.2 mph. All of those continue a recent trend of a velocity dip.

“I saw the 86 and I just didn’t know if Kenley was OK. You don’t want things to spiral out,” Roberts said of warming up Graterol. “You’ve got [Tyrone] Taylor and [Jedd] Gyorko after Yelich, and I wanted to make sure if we needed to pivot we could do that. It speaks more to the confidence I have in Brusdar than a lack thereof, and some people want to perceive it in Kenley, and that’s not the case.”

Roberts insisted his change in tone was not merely a vote of confidence for Jansen.

“No, it’s me going back and watching the video,” said Roberts. “When I looked at all four at-bats, it’s better than I thought, and that’s a good thing for the Dodgers. [The velocity] is not a good trend. There was an 86 and that’s what checked me up in the outing. I’ve never seen that from him. The last four outings, there has been a decrease in velocity, certainly. Everything I’ve heard, he still feels good.”

Jansen threw a short bullpen on Thursday to work on his delivery.

Worth noting
Speedster Terrance Gore, added to the Wild Card Series roster for baserunning duties, is 5-for-6 in postseason stolen bases. After being outrighted during the season, Gore said he was “really, really close” to signing with another team, but he decided to stick it out at the Dodgers’ alternate training site.

Gore said he’s been impressed with how the Dodgers teach the game and “really blown away” with the club’s implementation of technology, including virtual reality batting.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I came over here and, like, what in the world is going on over here? But after a while, it clicked with me that everything is for a purpose. I was really amazed. Not one player, but three or four, so I knew it had to be working.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.