This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, but Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is just stopping short of proclaiming that he’s back. After a career-worst 2019 campaign, the veteran closer — fully healthy and well-rested in the off-season for the first time in years — took the advice of his agent and LA strength coach Brandon McDaniel to have his delivery “analyzed and adjusted” over the winter.
While he spent some deserved time off back home in Curacao, he also made time to visit the Washington-based Driveline Baseball development academy over the winter.
#Dodgers Kenley Jansen made a trip to Driveline this winter, has thrown more than usual in hopes of recapturing his 2014-17 form. How important is that to LAD? Dave Roberts: It's vital. It's vital. … to have a guy at the back end with his pedigree it's vital."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 15, 2020
According to Ken Gurnick of dodgers.com, Jansen said “the result is a cutter with the rising life of his best years, and not the one that tailed into swing paths last year.”
Again, feels like something we heard often in 2019. However, the former All-Star didn’t visit Driveline in 2019. Instead he was often stubborn and standoffish when discussing his struggles during the season. Now, it seems, the big man is ready to take new steps forward.
I got to accept that I wasn’t at my best, and I’ve got to push through it to become a better pitcher.
Of his time with Driveline, Kenley shared some details of their work together.
Figured out some stuff. It went well. Learned to get back to where I used to be. My delivery changed so much, and you don’t even know that until they put all that stuff on your body and you figure out you lose eight percent on the cutter, eight percent on the rising. They give you exercise to put you back in position to fire the ball again.
It feels like the ball has life on it. That’s what everybody’s telling me. One thing I see: It doesn’t go down, it stays in one lane.
Notably, Jansen will have even more support from the Dodgers coaching staff in 2020. Longtime pitching coach Rick Honeycutt — the only major league coach Kenley has ever known — stepped into a front office role. Mark Prior took a step forward as the new pitching coach while Josh Bard returned to the organization as bullpen coach. Moreover, former Driveline instructor Rob Hill will join the Dodgers staff this season as pitching coordinator.
Of the revitalized staff, Bard was the bullpen coach for LA from 2016-2017, better known as two of Jansen’s more dominant seasons (88 saves, 1.38 FIP in 136 combined games). And Hill could step in to help the Dodger closer on the analytical side of things, if he loses his way.
With relievers Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, and the newly acquired Brusdar Graterol in tow for Los Angeles, there appears to be plenty of options if Jansen should falter. But the best possible team the Dodgers could field has the big man closing it out at the end of ballgames in 2020.