Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has yet to see a Major-League mound since undergoing surgery to remove a growth on a bone in his left foot Feb. 17.
Jansen began a rehab assignment May 1 with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, pitching one scoreless inning while surrendering a hit and striking out one. On Sunday, however, there was another sign that Jansen is inching closer to a return with the Dodgers, as he pitched for the second day in a row — a first since joining the Quakes.
There weren’t any setbacks for the 27-year-old right-hander after pitching a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in which he allowed a hit. Overall, Jansen has made five appearances for the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate.
Jansen’s 6.23 ERA in 4.1 innings of work is deceptive, as he has held opponents scoreless in four of five appearances. His lone blemish came May 6 after he allowed three runs on two hits against Visalia and took the loss.
The closer’s absence was initially a glaring concern for the Dodgers considering the struggles the bullpen had last season. But to the surprise of most, the group of relievers has been a pleasant surprise this season, with a blend of tested veterans and young newcomers coming together to fill the void left by Jansen.
This has given the Dodgers, who have maintained all along they would not rush Jansen, no reason to do so. Among the many relievers who have excelled this season, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia and Juan Nicasio have arguably stood out the most; so too has Adam Liberatore, though he’s bounced back and forth from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Heading into Monday, Baez, Garcia and Nicasio have pitched the same amount of innings (14.1) and have combined for 60 strikeouts; Garcia leads the trio with 23. Garcia’s 0.63 ERA and batting average against (.083) are also tops among the three, but Nicasio and Baez (with ERAs of 1.26 and 1.88 respectively) are not far behind.