Kenley Jansen pitches poorly in loss
Dodgers' converted reliever is lit up by Giants in 10-0 loss, but no one is about to panic
LOS ANGELES -- In baseball, feel-good stories tend to have short shelf lives. One of the more recent of those stories for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the one about the kid from Curacao who went from a minor league catcher who wasn't really considered much of a prospect to a major league reliever with blistering velocity in less than a year, well, that story ended fairly abruptly Saturday.
It isn't that Dodgers officials were concerned after Kenley Jansen's first outing of the season, a fairly disastrous inning in the midst of a 10-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants before 40,809 at Dodger Stadium. It isn't that anyone was all that alarmed that Jansen gave up twice as many runs in one inning as he gave up in 25 big league appearances after his midseason call-up last year.
"Just looking at the film, there were a couple of pitches that could have [been called] either way and maybe turned that inning around," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said.
It's more just that, where Jansen is concerned, the innocence has been lost. Because, for the first time in his career, the strapping right-hander with the high-90s fastball looked fallible. A little less sure of himself. A little less than invincible.
Coming on to begin the sixth inning with the Dodgers trailing 4-0, Jansen's main job was to keep it right there. But his second-most important job was to go two innings on an afternoon that already figured to tax the bullpen. And after a leadoff walk to Giants rookie Brandon Belt, Jansen failed on both counts.
He wound up being charged with four runs, giving up four hits and two walks in one inning in which he threw a career-high 42 pitches, missing the strike zone with half of them. This allowed the Giants to turn a daunting 4-0 lead into a wave-the-white-flag, 8-0 cushion. If there was any upside to it at all, it was that Jansen did manage to make it through an inning in which the Giants batted around, finishing it with back-to-back strikeouts of Buster Posey and Pat Burrell with two runners on.
Not that Jansen really had any choice in the matter -- the Dodgers didn't even get a reliever up in the bullpen until Jansen had thrown 32 pitches.
"Just a day to forget," Jansen said. "It was a tough day. Just flip the script. Hopefully, I'll face them again tomorrow. I want to face them more than any other team right now. It was a tough day, but I'll be ready to go for tomorrow."
Actually, no, he won't. There is no way Jansen or Lance Cormier, who also threw 42 pitches while mopping up over the final three innings, will be called upon in Sunday night's series finale. But with everybody else in the bullpen well rested and the Dodgers off Monday, that's not a big deal.
And neither is Jansen's implosion, according to Honeycutt.
"The main thing for anybody, I think, is just knowing the situation and staying aggressive in the zone," Honeycutt said. "When you get behind in the count and the hitter knows you have to come to him, it puts you at a disadvantage."
Jansen said he felt fine physically, so that isn't a concern, and he pitched pretty well in spring training, so it's not as if this is a trend. But the fact it came in his first appearance of what in theory should be his first full season in the majors is naturally going to arouse suspicions of whether he might need a little more minor league seasoning.
For the moment, that doesn't seem to be in the offing, either.
Honeycutt said one thing he does want Jansen to work on is coming out of the bullpen ready to go at full intensity from the first pitch he throws.
"Really, that needs to be the motto of bullpen guys," Honeycutt said. "That first hitter is the guy you have to attack. He has kind of wavered in and out at times, where maybe he doesn't have total focus until he gets into a jam, and then he turns it up. But that intensity level needs to be there right from pitch one."
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In fairness to Jansen, one of the hits he gave up was a scorching liner that Aaron Miles almost snagged at third, only to have it carom off his glove; another one was a blooper that fell just off the right-field line as first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ivan DeJesus and right fielder Andre Ethier converged.
"I was aggressive all the time," Jansen said. "I was just behind in counts, and that is one thing that will mess you up. But that's OK. I'll be back tomorrow."
• Ted Lilly wasn't very good in his first start of the season, giving up four runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was perfect through two, then gave up a run in the third and was lit up for three more in the fifth, which he didn't make it through. Lilly wouldn't blame the fact he was working with Hector Gimenez, who was catching his first game in the majors, saying he thought Gimenez did a good job.
• Backup catcher A.J. Ellis was warming up in the bullpen in the ninth inning and would have come in to pitch if Cormier hadn't gotten through the inning. Ellis ultimately wasn't needed, so he jogged in when the inning finally ended and pinch hit in the bottom half.
• Ethier went 3-for-4 overall and 1-for-2 off Giants starter Matt Cain, giving him a .500 career average (21-for-42) against the right-hander. On the flip side, though, Cain is 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his past four starts against the Dodgers after going 0-8 with a 4.32 ERA in his first 14 starts against them.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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