Kenley Jansen picks great time to be Dodgers' lights-out closer

Kenley Jansen picks great time to be Dodgers' lights-out closer
Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen delivers a pitch against the Phillies in the ninth inning Thursday night, when his fastball was consistently clocked in the 95- to 96-mph range. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Dodgers had grand plans for the back of the bullpen. Now they have a new plan, and thus far it's working as well as anyone could hope.

Kenley Jansen is back as the closer, back throwing heat, back looking more like the lock-down closer the Dodgers have been needing most of the season.


In his last 17 games, Jansen has given up one run. In those 17 2/3 innings, he has struck out 27 and not walked a single batter.

With Brandon League struggling, Manager Don Mattingly removed him as the closer and gave the role back to Jansen.

"It's a little different, but to me I feel like pitching in the seventh and eighth with men on base, it saves the games sometimes," Jansen said. "Sometimes they're the toughest, but most of the time it's the ninth.

"I treat them the same. If a guy's in front of me, just get him out."

Jansen has saved four games since officially taking over the closer's role, and has saved seven of nine this season. He saved Thursday's game, getting hot-hitting Chase Utley to line out to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to end the game after throwing him nine consecutive fastballs – most in the 95- to 96-mph range.

His arm looks back to full strength, and the heart condition that twice forced him to the disabled list the last two years appears behind him after off-season surgery.

"I don't worry about the past," Jansen  said. "I don't focus on it. Every day I have a chance. If they want me to come in to close the game, I just do my job."

Jansen, 25, had only one really rough patch this season. A pair of rough games right before he started on his current hot streak. In the process he's taken his earned-run average down from 3.63 to 2.31.

Ronald Belisario is now the Dodgers' main eighth-inning guy, League in a place unknown and Jansen closing. As plans go, this one is off to an encouraging start.