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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Offers Some Clarity on the Closing Role in Los Angeles

Doc shed some light on where they are right now.



In all likelihood, this will be the last season that Kenley Jansen closes games for the Dodgers. The 33-year-old is in the final year of a 5 year. $80 million contract that he signed following the 2016 season. It’s possible he signs a new deal with them, but I wouldn’t bet on that. 

The question coming into the 2021 season has been and will be what version of Kenley the Dodgers will be getting. In 2019, Kenley came into the regular season having thrown just 6 innings in Spring Training. He did something very similar in 2018 due to some underlying health issues. 

Jansen proved to be a roller coaster in both of those years, blowing 13 saves between those 2 seasons. He would go on to miss 2 save opportunities in the 2018 playoff run, and did not get a chance to during 2019. The Dodgers ultimately suffered greatly from that in their efforts to bring a championship back to Los Angeles. 

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But 2020 showed promise for Kenley, even after he started out the shortened season by being infected with the coronavirus. Jansen put up respectable enough numbers and got his hard contact rate WAY down once again. The only problem was that he was still missing his spots far too often. That resulted in a blown save during the World Series on a bloop single. 

But heading into 2021, the plan is for Kenley to be the closer for the Dodgers. Dave Roberts confirmed that on Thursday afternoon during a media session, citing his hard work and dedication to the team. 

The Dodgers will be in a unique position this year though. This is one of the first years where they have a number of guys that they can slot into his role, or even get away from the traditional closer role. Julio Urias, Brusdar Graterol, Victor Gonzalez, and Blake Treinen have all shown they can get big outs when needed. 

Whatever happens in 2021, the bullpen is going to be VERY interesting to watch. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. You mean that bloop single that came off the bat at 97 mph? That bloop single where he decided not to back up home plate.

    • The wrong decision, made with all the clarity in the world, is still wrong. Jansen is not an effective closer anymore, and should not be gifted with the closer role by DR. Everybody stock up antacids. You’re going to need them when the ninth inning of any game comes around.

      • As I figure, Jansen will have a short leash and not be given too many chances to blow games in the 9th inning. He may instead be brought in depending on match up earlier such as the 7th or 8th innings. IDK but surprised that Roberts named Jansen the closer on the very first day camps opened up.

    • No it was the bloop single off a 190 hitter who had less than 7 at bats in his playoff history and should have struck out if Jansen was even a mediocre pitcher, which he is not. Covering for Jansen is ridiculous he flat out sucks. All of his saves were gimmies and he was not used in pressure games at all. Give him away for a low level draft pick reducing the team salary and the pen will be better.

  2. I think Roberts saying that is his way of trying to instill confidence in Jansen, and saying its his job to lose, which is very likely. And don forhet about Knebel and !orrow, who have both been closers.

  3. Kenley’s ego went to his head last 3 years, sure. He tried adding/refining other pitches and just shaking off signals from catchers only to give up big hits. But it’s a contract year for him and he knows more than anyone- elite pitchers get elite pay. Only question is whether he can get back to 2017 form in 2021?

  4. San Diego has improved (obviously) and a blown save in April has the same consequences as a blown save in September —- it costs games in the standings. I would rather have a significant lead going into September so that the regulars can be well rested for the playoffs and there is a reliable closer in place. BTW, what is an acceptable number of blown saves?

    • I think it will depend on how dominant he is. If he is getting a lot of 1-2-3 innings, he will be allowed probably 2-3 blown saves over the course of April/May. If he is getting his saves while putting guys on, then his 2nd blown save gets him replaced.

  5. You gotta be kidding me. Roberts needs to go with decisions like that. Someone needs to show Kenley on how to back up his catcher. Oh wait, he’s too much of a prima Donna to move off the mound. Bruce Bochy, are you available?

  6. Jansen really is not the good pitcher be once was. He really sucks now. I am so happy his contract is over. Who knows maybe he worked out this fall and winter instead of getting fat and lazy. He really sucks since 2017 .

  7. Huh ? Isn’t this announcement a bit premature? Not a pitch thrown from the mound in a game yet. Take a look at the other arms ready to compete for tis job. Plenty of eyes will be watching this spring.

  8. D. Roberts & the F.O. can not give Jansen a long leash & to many chances to re-establish himself as the closer if he struggles. With the Padres & Mets improved this year & the Braves most likely going to be very good again, the Dodgers have to place emphasis on winning! Winning the most games so that the playoffs go through Los Angeles!!

  9. I trust Dave to do the right thing with Kenley. As does the rest of the Dodger org. Obviously Doc did the right thing last year and we won the World Series! So lets get thru spring training and see how the team shapes up in April and May. There’s plenty of time to see if Kenley and the other 25 are ready to compete, to repeat!

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