Kenley Jansen has known he needs heart surgery this offseason since early August, when he experienced a second episode of atrial fibrillation — irregular heartbeats — in Denver. The Dodgers closer was cleared to return within two weeks, but the operation loomed as the club advanced to another World Series.
Jansen, 31, will undergo a cardiac ablation procedure on Nov. 26. His recovery time ranges from a couple weeks to a couple months, but the Dodgers say they expect he’ll be ready for spring training in February. This will be the second cardiac ablation for Jansen, who underwent a similar procedure six years ago. The operation is designed to scar or destroy tissue in the heart that is allowing incorrect electrical signals to create an abnormal heart rhythm.
“There is no real time pressure because doing it in the next few weeks, it will be a limited amount of downtime,” Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, said at the general managers meetings this month. “He’ll be able to start working out again. It won’t interfere with his throwing program at all.”
Before the episode in Colorado, Jansen was enjoying a standout season. He had a 2.15 earned-run average in 51 appearances. Opponents were batting .175. He made the All-Star team for the third straight year. But he returned a different pitcher. The right-hander posted a 5.71 ERA in his 18 final regular-season outings. Opponents batted .275 and hit seven home runs in 17 1/3 innings — one more than Jansen had given up in 54 1/3 innings before the surgery. Jansen rebounded with 6 2/3 scoreless innings to begin his postseason before blowing saves in the World Series on consecutive nights.
Figuring out the proper dosage for his medication hindered Jansen. At one point, he said he stopped taking the medication altogether because it made him drowsy. But Jansen also battled mechanical inconsistencies — a problem Friedman said he believes stemmed from a hamstring injury Jansen suffered during spring training.
“I think when you come back from that, sometimes, just subconsciously, you can make changes and it becomes muscle memory and it can be very subtle and then get more pronounced,” Friedman said. “And I think his delivery got a little bit out of whack after the hamstring thing is my theory. He worked hard to get it back in sync and I think there were periods when he synced up really well and there were periods where his delivery got a little bit out of whack.
“But I know it’s something he’ll really focus on this offseason and I expect him to return to the best closer in baseball.”