Advertisement
Sports

The Sports Report: Has Kenley Jansen finally found his groove?

Dodgers Diamondbacks Baseball
Kenley Jansen
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. No local pro sports teams played Monday. Don’t they know I have a newsletter to write?

DODGERS

After a season of ups and downs, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen may have finally clicked into place.

In his last two outings, he looked dominant. Against Baltimore, his velocity touched 96 mph and he needed 19 pitches for three outs. Of course, it did come against the Orioles, perhaps the worst team in baseball.

Advertisement

His next outing came against the New York Mets, who are vying for a wild-card spot. He retired the side on 10 pitches, including striking out certain NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso on three pitches.

“Trying to click at some point, man,” Jansen said.

“He’s peaking, I think,” manager Dave Roberts said, “at the right time.”

The key is in his mechanics. He insisted his velocity wavers because of his delivery.

Advertisement

“That’s the most annoying thing,” Jansen said. “When [my] mechanics are off, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, he lost his fastball.’ It’s not [it]. It’s just if I’m out of whack mechanically.”

Over-reliance on the cutter was a big problem, but Jansen has slowly learned to mix in other pitches.

In 10 games over the last month, he has thrown 175 pitches. The cutter share has dropped to 66%. He has thrown 35 two-seamers (20%) and 25 sliders (14%). He is willing to throw the secondary pitches in any count. He has worked at becoming less predictable. He allowed a run in four of those outings, but the last two have generated optimism. Roberts said Jansen hasn’t had better consecutive outings this season.

“I know he was excited after that,” Roberts said after Sunday’s game. “And the needle’s moved in the right direction.”

Even ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian noticed during Sunday’s telecast: “Let me tell you: If that’s the Kenley Jansen the Dodgers see in October, it’s going to be a different story this fall.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

Bruins fans who are clamoring for coach Chip Kelly to go back to the Oregon “blur” offense that brought him so much success there shouldn’t hold their breath.

“Oregon was a long time ago,” Kelly said. “It’s totally two different operations. Again, another weird view that we’re going to run what we did at Oregon. That was 2012.”

Advertisement

Didn’t Kelly have a lot of success with it, though?

“They had a lot of success with the single wing in the 1930s, too,” said Kelly, who went 46-7 at Oregon thanks largely to an offense that generated 44.7 points per game. “But people, football evolves and things evolve so maybe drop that take, to be honest with you. I never said when I came in here that we were going to run the offense that we were running at Oregon, so I don’t know why that continues to come up as a question.

“I don’t look back at our Oregon offense and study that tape and say, ‘Hey, we should do that here.’ I think we’re always trying to figure out what our guys here do well and try to accentuate that and again, it’s consistency, because we have done it well. It’s a consistency thing, not a, ‘Hey, let’s go find another offense.’ ”

USC FOOTBALL

In the wake of USC’s loss to BYU on Saturday, many Trojans fans were wondering if perhaps Clay Helton had seized control of the play-calling from offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. Harrell put those rumors to rest on Monday.

When asked if he’d change any plays he called on Saturday, he smiled and shook his head.

“Nah,” he said. “I liked them all. That’s why I called them.”

But in his inaugural season with USC, there have been lessons for Harrell to learn as a play-caller. The most important of them being that his quarterback’s confidence in the play calls mattered more than his own.

Advertisement

“As you go, you’re always learning, always evolving,” Harrell said, “but I think that was the biggest lesson I learned calling plays. [You have to] figure out what that quarterback executes at a high level. What does he feel comfortable with? What does he see well? And if you call those plays, usually they work.”

CHARGERS

Safety Adrian Phillips, who suffered a broken right arm in Sunday’s loss to Detroit, will be placed on injured reserve and, therefore, miss at least the next eight weeks.

Coach Anthony Lynn said he does believe Phillips will be able to return at some point this season.

The Chargers now missing seven starters: Phillips, safety Derwin James (foot), running back Melvin Gordon (contract holdout), left tackle Russell Okung (blood clots), tight end Hunter Henry (knee), cornerback Michael Davis (hamstring) and kicker Michael Badgley (groin).

Only Badgley is considered close to returning.

“We’re going to compete every single week,” Lynn said. “That’s one thing we’re going to do. We’re going to try to get those guys healthy and maybe get them back later.”

RAMS

Rams tight end Tyler Higbee suffered a bruised lung and offensive lineman Austin Blythe a left ankle sprain during the Rams’ 27-9 victory over the New Orleans Saints, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

McVay described both players’ status as “day to day,” but the nature of Higbee’s injury would indicate that he is less likely than Blythe to play at Cleveland, which picked up its first win Monday night, 23-3 over the New York Jets.

NFL

Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season. The longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback left Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks at halftime with obvious pain in his right elbow. Coach Mike Tomlin released a statement Monday declaring the 37-year-old player’s 16th season over after 1½ games.

Roethlisberger later released a statement regarding the decision:

“I’ve been informed that I need season ending surgery on my elbow to continue playing football at the level I expect. This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people. I can only trust God’s plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season. The Steelers committed three years to me this offseason and I fully intend to honor my contract and reward them with championship level play. I will do all I can to support Mason and the team this season to help win games. I love this game, my teammates, the Steelers organization and fans, and I feel in my heart I have a lot left to give.”

He isn’t the only veteran quarterback who might be missing significant time. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand and is expected to be out at least six weeks.

MONDAY’S NFL RESULT

Cleveland 23, at NY Jets 3. Read all about it here.

KINGS

New coach Todd McLellan is not wasting time instilling a sense of discipline among the team.

“I want to be direct,” McLellan said. “I would like us to be very clear as a coaching staff of what we require of them, what their responsibilities are in certain areas and then, most importantly, why we’re doing it.

“I continue to try to get that point across. If they understand why, they have a better chance at success.”

In the first weekend of training camp, there is a hectic and high-paced quality attached to almost every drill. Then the action will stop on a dime, slowing to a hum as the veteran NHL coach delivers detailed instructions.

“He’s going to be straightforward,” forward Tyler Toffoli said. “If it’s good or bad, he’s going to let us know.”

McLellan wants to re-instill the aggressiveness the Kings seemingly lost last season and hopes the structure of his training camp practices can help do it.

“What hockey used to get done in 60 minutes, you can almost get done in 40 minutes now,” McLellan said. “Keep the pace up, keep the heart rate up, you don’t have to line guys at the end of practice all the time and skate them.”

McLellan wants to implement an entirely new style of play, one that transforms the Kings from a one-dimensional defensive stalwart to a heavy-forechecking, high-scoring squad. He wants to reestablish a Stanley Cup-winning culture. And he needs his players to adjust to his unique terms, phrases and philosophies.

“By the time we get up and running and playing, hopefully it just comes to them naturally,” McLellan said, “and we’re a little more assertive.”

NHL

The National Hockey League Players’ Assn. won’t reopen its collective bargaining agreement with the NHL, paving the way for uninterrupted play and labor peace for the next few years. The current agreement, which will remain in effect through the 2021-22 season.

“While players have concerns with the current CBA, we agree with the league that working together to address those concerns is the preferred course of action instead of terminating the agreement following this season,” Don Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, said in a statement. “We have been having discussions with the league about an extension of the CBA and expect that those talks will continue.”

SPARKS

The Sparks open the WNBA semifinals today at the Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the second-seeded Connecticut Sun. To make matters more difficult, the Sun have gone 15-2 at home, tying the Sparks for the league’s top mark.

The WNBA chartered a plane for the Sparks — a league first — adding to the team’s rest as they look to defeat their road demons. And while the Sparks have the perk of being well rested, they may also have the benefit of not being overly rested.

With two byes, the Sun will not have played in nine days. The Sparks, however, were able to use Sunday’s win against the Seattle Storm to rinse off any rust that may have accumulated during their week off.

“This time around we took a charter, so the difference in that is huge,” said forward-center Nneka Ogwumike, noting that the playoff travel has been more player-friendly than during the regular season. “But I also think that us being able to kind of have a game ahead of this, especially in a playoff experience, it’s gonna really set the tone for us.”

SPARKS PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. All games on ESPN2

Game 1: Today at Connecticut, 3:30 p.m.

Game 2: Thursday at Connecticut, 3:30 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday at Sparks (at Long Beach State), TBD

Game 4*: Sept. 24 at Sparks, TBD

Game 5*: Sept. 26 at Connecticut, TBD

*-if necessary

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.

This moment comes from Charles Nabarrete:

I was 13 years old when I attended the 1959 World Series between the Dodgers and the White Sox. A family friend had season tickets and he gave us two tickets along the first base line about 25 rows from the field. It was a great afternoon watching my Dodger favorites and the unforgettable Minnie Minoso.

Several years later my mother returned the program that I had purchased, she kept all our family mementos, it was still in pretty good shape. So I went to the 50th anniversary celebration Dodger game of the 1959 championship at Dodger Stadium and had Wally Moon, Joe Pignatano, Tommy Davis, although I did not think he was on the 1959 team, and other former players autograph the program. I plan to give the souvenir to my grandson who is a great baseball fan.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Tampa Bay at Dodgers, 7 p.m., Youtube, 570 AM

Angels at NY Yankees, 3:30 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Sparks at Connecticut, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2, SN1

BORN ON THIS DATE

1879: Baseball player Rube Foster (d. 1930)

1927: NFL player George Blanda (d. 2010)

1929: Race car driver Stirling Moss

1934: Tennis player Maureen Connolly (d. 1969)

1937: Baseball player Orlando Cepeda

1945: Former Laker coach Phil Jackson

1955: Golfer Scott Simpson

1956: Former Angel Thad Bosley

1960: Baseball player John Franco

1974: NBA player Rasheed Wallace

1975: Race car driver Jimmie Johnson

1985: NHL player Alexander Ovechkin

1985: Tennis player Tomas Berdych

1995: NFL player Patrick Mahomes

DIED ON THIS DATE

1994: Tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, 40

AND FINALLY

Maureen Connolly wins the 1953 Wimbledon women’s singles title. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


Newsletter
Get our daily Sports Report newsletter
Advertisement