The Los Angeles Dodgers opened camp knowing they’d be without closer Kenley Jansen, who underwent surgery to remove a growth in his left foot Feb. 17. The domino effect was manager Don Mattingly stating the club wouldn’t look to anoint a temporary closer, but instead would rely on matchups.
Mattingly held true to his word as the Dodgers relied on multiple relievers to close out games throughout the first six weeks of the regular season. Jansen was activated from the disabled list Friday and made his debut in the eighth inning, striking out four batters in one inning.
While the plan is to ease Jansen back into his usual role, Mattingly indicated prior to Friday’s game it won’t correlate to other relievers being handed designated innings (i.e. a specific setup man).
“I think once Kenley gets to the ninth, then you’re able to use the other guys the same way we’ve used them and try to match those guys up,” Mattingly said. “Not really,” Mattingly said when further asked about set roles.
“Not with the way the guys have thrown the ball. We’ve had a number of guys throw the ball well. The way Lib [Adam Liberatore] is throwing the ball, it would be tough to have the eighth inning come up and say, ‘oh that’s for the eighth-inning guy’ when it’s three out of four lefties coming up.”
On the current roster, Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia fit the prototypical setup man profile as hard-throwing right-handers. Though Baez is currently on the disabled list with a strained right pectoral muscle and Garcia has regressed a bit after an outstanding start to the season.
The Dodgers’ reluctance to lock relievers into set roles is one that stretches down through the Minor-League ranks, as Sergio Santos said it was a philosophy Triple-A Oklahoma City manager Bamon Berryhill explained to his club at the start of the season.
However, it hasn’t exactly panned out as such, as David Aardsma leads the OKC Dodgers with 10 saves, eight more than second-on-the team Josh Ravin.
Meanwhile for the big league Dodgers, Juan Nicasio converted a save Friday night and became the fourth pitcher on the team this season to do so. Additionally, 10 different pitchers have finished a game with J.P. Howell’s eight games finished a team-high.
Dodgers Closer Kenley Jansen Discusses Needing To Get Comfortable