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Daily Dodger in Review: Kenley Jansen embraces role as closer

SportsBaseballKenley JansenMariano RiveraAroldis ChapmanBrandon League

KENLEY JANSEN, 26, closer

Final 2013 stats: 4-3, 28 saves in 32 opportunities, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.0 strikeouts per inning pitched and a .177 opponents batting average.

Contract status: First year he’s arbitration eligible.

The good: After officially being named the closer on June 11, he went 3-0 with 26 saves in 29 opportunities and a 1.41 ERA. Just a little bit good.

If it seemed like he wasn’t striking out as many batters as in the past, that’s only in comparison to his record setting 2011 season (16.1 per nine). He still ranked fourth overall in baseball (Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman led at 15.83).

He was particularly stingy with runners in scoring position, allowing just four hits all season, limiting opponents to a .068 average (4-for-59) with 23 strikeouts. The converted catcher appeared in a career-high 75 games. He struck out 111 and walked only 18 in 76 2/3 innings.

During a stretch from July 23-Aug. 4 he was absolutely dominant, retiring 27 consecutive batters (15 strikeouts).

The bad: Did not have a 0.00 ERA, so there is room for improvement.

What’s next: More of the same, the Dodgers hope. For the first time next spring, he’ll enter camp as the Dodgers’ undisputed closer. He’s only really been a pitcher for the last four seasons, so there should be plenty of life left in his arm.

The take: The Dodgers spent $21 million over three years to sign Brandon League to be their closer, and he couldn’t last three months.

Fortunately the Dodgers had Jansen lying in wait. He had shown he could be an effective closer the previous season until sidelined with a heart condition. He had a heart procedure that offseason, and after a somewhat slow start (1-3, 3.63 in first 12 games), turned it on and never looked back.

Reliable closers are a tricky find, but the Dodgers appear in great shape with a young, hard-thrower who has developed a cutter that has people comparing him to Mariano Rivera. That’s sort of like comparing a hitter to Willie Mays.

He likes closing and has learned to embrace pressure situations. With experience, he figures to become only better.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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