After a clean first outing on Sunday, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was reticent to talk about his personal expectations for spring training, but he noted “I gotta get better” as his overall goal.
And it seems like the big man has been true to his word since the end of the 2019 season.
Soon after Washington pulled the rug out from under Los Angeles, Jansen was spotted on the field at Dodger Stadium working.
Kenley Jansen is already back at the field throwing and working out. pic.twitter.com/5aSZKWYNr3
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) October 21, 2019
Then over the winter, he visited Driveline Baseball in Seattle, Washington to correct some bad habits he established after a hamstring injury in the spring of 2018. And it seems like the visit was successful with Jansen having said as much.
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.
But only the cut-fastball won’t be enough for the 32-year-old. And with that, he has put in work early in spring training on his slider. In particular, his grip.
#Dodgers Kenley Jansen said his extra work with Rick Honeycutt, Orel Hershiser, Joel Peralta today centered on his slider grip. Honeycutt-Hershiser showed him a new one that started to feel comfortable. "Gotta take advantage of having those guys around," Jansen said.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) February 21, 2020
Jansen mentioned that he liked the slider grip showed to him by former pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Dodger legend Orel Hershiser.
Still, the LA coaching staff went younger this off-season — primarily on the pitching side. The 39-year-old Mark Prior assumed the role of pitching coach from Honeycutt. Connor McGuiness, 30, was also promoted to assistant pitching coach with the big club after spending the last two seasons as the Single-A Rancho pitching coach.
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Prior offers a blend of “old school and new school” in terms of knowledge he can offer to pitchers. However, McGuiness has more of an analytical approach that has already made a difference for the club at Camelback Ranch. He helped Ross Stripling with his refined changeup grip and is helping drive home the power of video amongst all who will welcome it.
Getting back, it seems like Jansen’s efforts resulted in early success. In his first outing on Sunday, Kenley faced the minimum while striking out 2 and touching 92 on his cutter. If he can work to refine that slider as a consistent secondary pitch — ideally with the help of McGuiness — the closer could return to dominance.