The Los Angeles Dodgers will be without closer Kenley Jansen for at least the first month of the season after the 27 year old underwent surgery to remove a growth from a bone in his left foot at the beginning of Spring Training.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has not announced a replacement for the closer’s role yet and he maintained Thursday he likely will not until the end of Spring Training. While the Dodgers have acquired multiple relief pitchers with late-game experience, Juan Nicasio isn’t among them.
However, Walt Weiss, Nicasio’s manager when he was with the Colorado Rockies, believes the right-hander is capable of closing, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News:
I think that’s certainly within reason,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss told this publication recently. “We talked about those things being part of his future.”
The 28-year-old Nicasio had been a starter for his entire four-year career with the Rockies, until last August when he was moved to the bullpen. After the change Nicasio was more effective when coming out of the bullpen as opposed to serving as a starter.
Over 69 career starts, he amassed a 20-21 record and 5.12 ERA. Albeit in a much smaller sample size, he held a lower ERA at 3.48 in 19 relief appearances. Nicasio’s strikeout-to-walk ratio increased to 3.40 after being moved to the bullpen, up from 2.13 as a starter.
The Dominican native was the first reliever out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in their Spring Training opener, but he struggled a bit and gave up three runs in one inning. However, two of the runs came on an Adam LaRoche double to center field that Andre Ethier got his glove on but was unable to come up with the catch.
With a fastball that sits around 95 MPH and a slider in the mid-to-high-80s, Nicasio has the requisite stuff to be a closer — at least in the interim. However, he’ll need to beat out the likes of J.P. Howell and Brandon League, among others, to serve as Jansen’s holdover.
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