SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has already said that Kenley Jansen will be the team’s closer on Opening Day. But with the way last season ended, all eyes have been on the right-hander this spring.
Jansen made his second appearance of the spring in the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Sunday, tossing his second consecutive scoreless inning. The Dodgers’ right-hander allowed a one-out single to Eli White, but was able to work around that, needing just 12 pitches, seven of which were strikes.
But as always, all eyes were on the radar gun when Jansen was on the mound. Surprise Stadium's radar gun had him sitting at 89-90 mph consistently and hitting 91 mph once.
“Not really,” Roberts said, when asked if they pay much attention to Jansen’s velocity this early in spring. “I think there’s still adrenaline and all that kind of stuff. I’m more mindful of the delivery and the consistency and the characteristics of the two-seamers and cut fastballs.”
Jansen was solid in 2020, posting a 3.33 ERA and recording 11 saves in 13 chances. His season, however, had no shortage of on-field drama.
When Jansen was on top of his game last year, his velocity was around 93 mph. When he struggled, his velocity decreased significantly, hovering around 89-90 mph. His control also took a hit last season, finishing with a 1.15 WHIP, the highest of his career.
So far this spring, Roberts and the Dodgers have been encouraged by what they’ve seen from Jansen. In his first outing, Jansen needed just nine pitches to retire the side, coming one strike away from an immaculate inning. This past week, however, Jansen was given a few more days in between outings because his mechanics got a little out of sync during a live batting practice session.
Jansen did some different things this offseason in order to strengthen his arm and has been going through the occasional long toss with new Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer. The Dodgers would like to see Jansen’s velocity continue to trend up over his next few appearances, but they viewed Sunday’s outing as another step in the right direction.
“I thought the tempo of the delivery was much better,” Roberts said. “I thought he had much better throws and it was coming out better. The swings that they were taking and the soft contact, I thought it was really good. … Today was much better than what we saw the last time out.”
Graterol dealt with some issues during the winter, according to Roberts, which is why the team has been cautious with the power thrower. Kelly, on the other hand, has thrown a few bullpen sessions but has been dealing with an undisclosed injury.
It’s unclear when either will be ready for game action, but Roberts said that pitching in a handful of games will probably be needed for either to be ready for Opening Day. As of right now, Roberts said Graterol is ahead of Kelly in terms of getting into a game.
“I think that Brusdar is in a pretty good spot, although he started a little bit later,” Roberts said. “Joe is a ways away though.”
Walker Buehler made his second start of the spring on Sunday, allowing three runs in three innings of work. Buehler gave up homers to Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor in the first inning, but was able to settle down following that. While the results weren’t there for Buehler in the first inning, the right-hander was pleased to get through three innings on 40 pitches (31 strikes), continuing his buildup.
“Physically, I felt good,” Buehler said. “You don’t want to give up runs and homers, but at least I’m on schedule and on time more than I usually am. Just gotta get back out there in five days.”
Cody Bellinger played three innings in an intrasquad game at Camelback Ranch on Sunday. The outfielder is still recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery to his right (non-throwing) shoulder and has still not played in a Cactus League game this spring.
Bellinger only played defense in the intrasquad game and did not take any at-bats. Bellinger has been taking batting practice on the field over the last few days and the hope is still that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Roberts said he’s optimistic Bellinger could play in Cactus League games by mid-March.