SURPRISE, Ariz. -- After Kenley Jansen dealt with command and velocity issues at the end of last season, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t waste any time this spring naming Jansen the team’s closer to start the season.
Roberts has been praising Jansen every chance he gets this spring, and the right-hander showed why in his first Cactus League outing, needing just nine pitches to retire the side and coming one strike away from completing an immaculate inning.
Things had been going smoothly for Jansen this spring, but the Dodgers decided to not use the right-hander in Friday’s game against the Royals due to some issues with his delivery and mechanics during a live batting practice session on Thursday.
Jansen is doing fine physically and did some dry work on the bullpen mound during Friday’s workout.
“I think he was just a little bit out of sync,” Roberts said. “Obviously with Kenley, a big-bodied guy, it kind of happens.”
During the live batting practice session, Roberts said that Jansen plunked outfielder Zach Reks on the right elbow with his signature cutter.
“He’s been so good with his command and yesterday just wasn’t where it’s been,” Roberts said. “[His next outing] would be either Sunday or Monday. We’ll let him drive it.”
Jansen made 27 appearances in the regular season last year, posting a 3.33 ERA. Command issues plagued him all season, however, and he finished with a 1.151 WHIP, the highest of his career. In the postseason, Julio Urías and Blake Treinen got some of the save opportunities. In 2021, the Dodgers will lean on Jansen in the ninth.
“I’ve talked about it before, in the sense that we’re at our best if Kenley is closing for us,” Roberts said earlier this spring. “But with that said, we have a lot of great viable options to finish a game. So right now, that’s kind of where it’s at. … As I sit here right now, I expect him to close that first game of the season.”
Graterol and Kelly update
Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly are the two members of the projected Opening Day bullpen that have yet to make an appearance in the Cactus League, but they both appear to be trending in the right direction, according to Roberts.
Graterol dealt with things over the offseason, according to Roberts, which limited the right-hander more than he and the team would’ve liked. The current plan is to get Graterol to throw off the mound in the next couple of days. It’s still unclear when he’ll appear in a game.
“He’s coming along really well,” Roberts said. “There were some things this winter that didn’t allow for him to get off the mound and throw as consistently as he would’ve liked coming into camp. [We] just want to make sure he stays healthy, so the ramp-up has been a little different for him.”
Roberts said that what limited Graterol over the offseason wasn’t a surgery or anything of that sort. He added, “It’s just more kind of stuff of what’s going on in our world.”
Kelly threw a bullpen session on Friday and continues to progress through a throwing program. The Dodgers aren’t worried about the right-hander’s availability for Opening Day.
“Joe is very aware of what it takes for him to get ready for a Major League season,” Roberts said. “I feel confident and comfortable in that.”
The Dodgers had a handful of regulars in the starting lineup on Friday and it was utility man Chris Taylor that stole the show in the 7-5 win. Taylor hit a grand slam in the fifth inning off right-hander Jackson Kowar. The projected distance on the blast was 444 feet.
“Just really a heck of a player,” Roberts said.
Taylor will play all over the field this season as he fills in for Kiké Hernández, who signed with the Red Sox this spring. Taylor, who is entering the final year of his deal, will mainly play second base and center field, but will also fill in at shortstop behind Corey Seager and third base behind Justin Turner and Edwin Ríos.
• Kody Hoese, the Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, recorded his first hit of the spring, a solo blast to left field in the eighth inning off right-hander Kyle Zimmer. Hoese was one of the team’s two first-round picks in 2019 and spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site at USC.
• Trevor Bauer is scheduled to make his second Cactus League start on Saturday against the Padres. Walker Buehler will make his second start on Sunday against the Rangers.