Jansen ready for first Cactus League action
Dodgers' closer scheduled to pitch one inning against Royals
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kenley Jansen will make his Cactus League debut on Friday when the Dodgers play the Royals at Camelback Ranch.
Jansen threw 17 pitches in a "B" game on Monday, but Friday will mark the closer's first official appearance of the exhibition season.
The slower pace was always the plan for Jansen, who pitched in 65 games during the regular season in 2017, totaling 68 1/3 innings, and added on 16 2/3 innings over 13 postseason games.
Though Jansen was hit with the same virus that knocked out a portion of the Dodgers' roster recently, that wasn't the reason for his delayed game action. This was always the plan. As a back-end reliever, there is not a lot of prep time required to get ready for the regular season.
"I'm going to assume he's going to pitch another [inning] at some point," Roberts said. "We kind of slow-played him getting out there, so he feels good. He's excited."
NASCAR champ in camp
Team meetings are common practice during Spring Training, and most of the time not newsworthy -- unless that meeting includes the newly crowned winner of the Daytona 500.
In that respect, the Dodgers' closed-door gathering Thursday before the they headed out to Goodyear to play the Indians was notable.
"Spring Training, it can be so monotonous, so I thought we could get a fresh person and a different perspective on things," Roberts said.
Austin Dillon, who won NASCAR's most prestigious race in mid-February, wore a Dodgers jersey bearing the autographs of several players, tossed a football with Jansen and spent the afternoon touring around the Camelback Ranch backfields while the Dodgers worked out.
"Baseball players love celebrities and other things we can't do," Roberts said. "So it's funny to watch Austin playing catch with Kenley and talking about driving a race car and, 'How fast have you gone?' ... all the questions are pretty hilarious."
Given the popularity of ride-sharing these days, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that baseball appears to be slowly bringing back the bullpen cart to the big leagues.
The D-backs were the first team to officially announce they're bringing back the bullpen cart, that compact and adorable motor vehicle that decades ago transported relievers from the bullpen to the mound when called upon to pitch.
We haven't seen the bullpen cart in a while; when exactly they faded from game action is up for debate -- though it did make a noble cameo appearance in the 1989 hit movie "Major League," driving catcher Jake Taylor to Lynn's apartment after a game in his desperate attempt to win her back.
Time will tell if anyone other teams will join the D-backs in reviving the bullpen cart, but don't look for the Dodgers' relievers to campaign on their behalf. Bullpen carts eliminate one very essential element to a reliever's routine -- the jog in.
"You jog in, you're already geeked up," said Jansen, who, at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, would have to roll himself into a ball first before actually getting into the bullpen cart. "You're warmed up, and now you want to get that jog in. I love it. That's when I feel like I can get even more locked in."
The Dodgers have a history with bullpen carts. They utilized one in the 1974 World Series, as did their opponent, the Oakland A's. The Dodgers have their bullpen cart on display at Dodger Stadium.
Maybe it's a good idea to leave it there?
"I think I would prefer to run in on my own," said reliever Brock Stewart. "Just because once I step through the gate, onto the warning track and onto the field, that's kind of how I turn it on. I just don't feel like, if I were on a cart, I would feel the same hype."
Added reliever Tony Cingrani: "It's actually a pretty cool thing to run into a game."
Corey Seager, who has been rehabbing a sore elbow throughout the spring and has been limited to a designated-hitter role, will play shortstop in a Minor League game on Monday.
Matt Kemp, once considered a long shot to appear on the Opening Day roster, continues to have a strong spring. Against the Indians Thursday, he logged a double in the fourth inning and walked in the second.
The Dodgers will host the Royals at Camelback Ranch on Friday at 12:05 p.m. PT in a matchup available live on MLB.TV. Right-hander Kenta Maeda will take the mound for Los Angeles. He's allowed one earned run over 4 1/3 innings, spanning two starts.