Kenley Jansen said Thursday he would not discuss a new contract with the Dodgers during the season, all but ensuring one of the premier closers in baseball will hit free agency this fall.
Jansen said there is “nothing going on” now and said he would not entertain contract negotiations once the season starts Monday.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” he said. “They need me here right now. I’ll be the leadership for the bullpen. I’ll try to help the team win and get to the playoffs, and hopefully we can get to the World Series.
“I’ll just want to talk about that in October.”
Jansen, 28, is one of the elite relievers in the major leagues. He converted 36 of 38 saves last season, with 80 strikeouts and eight walks. He held opponents to a .176 batting average.
In his career, he has averaged 14 strikeouts per nine innings. That ranks third on the all-time list behind Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees and Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox, among pitchers with a minimum of 250 innings.
The Dodgers had an agreement in principle to acquire Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds in December, then backed off upon learning of a domestic violence allegation against Chapman. The Reds subsequently traded Chapman to the Yankees; he will serve a 30-game suspension to start the season.
Jansen declined to say that his first choice would be to remain with the Dodgers.
“This game is a business,” he said. “I think about helping my team win championships. That’s what I’m here for.”
He said his contract situation would not distract him this season.
“You can’t worry about that. You’ve got to stay focused and continue to pitch.
“There’s a lot of teams out there. I’m here right now. That’s my focus: helping the Dodgers win.”
The number of innings the Dodgers’ starting infielders played together in the Cactus League: zero.
“It would have been nice to get that out of the way in spring, to know exactly where people are going to be and how they move,” rookie shortstop Corey Seager said. “But you can learn it. It’s not a stressing ordeal.”
Seager returned to the lineup Thursday, after sitting out since March 11 because of a sprained knee. Third baseman Justin Turner, coming off knee surgery, did not make his Cactus League debut until March 14. Second baseman Howie Kendrick has not played since March 22 because of a strained calf and is expected to start the season on the disabled list.
Seager made his major league debut last September, so he had a few weeks to play alongside Turner, Kendrick and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
“It’s not like it’s brand new,” Seager said.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal (forearm soreness) will rejoin the Dodgers on Saturday and is expected to catch the second game of the season Tuesday, Manager Dave Roberts said. A.J. Ellis will catch Clayton Kershaw in Monday’s opener. … Infielder Alex Guerrero will open the season on the disabled list; Roberts said an MRI exam showed Guerrero had “minimal damage” in his left knee.