One game — albeit one very impressive one — was all it took for Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly to decree Sunday that Kenley Jansen was being placed back in his money role.
“He’s our closer,” Mattingly said.
Now about that eighth-inning guy … there isn’t one, and Mattingly said it will likely remain that way.
In seasons past, Mattingly was always big on defined roles. Even when it didn’t work out, or perhaps you’ve forgotten how Brian Wilson was supposed to hold down the eighth inning last season.
Thirty-six games into this season, the Dodgers have not only never identified someone as Jansen’s temporary fill-in, they've never identified a setup man.
“I’m actually comfortable with the number of guys we have out there that match up with a lot of different parts of people’s lineups,” Mattingly said. “I could name three of four guys right now we’re comfortable with the way they’re throwing. I look at their lineup, who’s coming up that inning and who matches up the best.”
Joel Peralta, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio all earned saves while Jansen was out. Peralta is currently on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Some thought Hatcher would claim the eighth-inning spot, but he’s been wildly inconsistent (6.00 ERA, 1.42 WHIP). Some figured former closer Sergio Santos might seize the spot, but he’s also struggled (6.10, 1.55). Pedro Baez (1.76, 0.98) appeared to be grasping the eighth, but now he’s on the disabled list with a strained chest muscle.
That leaves Mattingly with Garcia, Nicasio and a choice of Adam Liberatore, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez — the latter three all left-handers.
Mattingly said he’s not waiting for anyone in the bullpen to emerge from the pack.
“I think they’ve already emerged,” he said. “A lot of our guys have already showed up and shown who they’re going to be. We’re comfortable where they’re at.
“Having Kenley in the ninth, gives our club confidence in that inning, that we’re going to close it out. What our guys have been able to do to this point gives us confidence that we can match up pretty much with anybody or any different part of the lineup and get through it.”