Trying to contain the enthusiasm: Not so easy with the early results of Dodgers' Kenley Jansen
Need it be said, two innings does not make a career. Two tiny innings. A minor blip during a major league career.
OK, that said, go ahead and get excited.
Dream the dream, because two games into his career with the Dodgers, Kenley Jansen has opened eyes.
Two innings and he has generated excitement on a team badly in need of some. Twenty-nine pitches into his career, and a ravaged bullpen has new life.
Slightly less than a year ago, Jansen was a strong-armed catcher who couldn’t hit his weight. So he was asked to switch to pitcher. He made his professional debut as a reliever July 29. He threw a whole 11-2/3 innings last season.
And Saturday he made his major league debut with a perfect inning. And Sunday he did the same to earn a save.
"That felt awesome, amazing," Jansen said. "Just having fun out there. It’s just like a dream come true."
In a bullpen minus a struggling Ramon Troncoso (at triple-A Albuquerque) and Ronald Belisario (reportedly in a substance-abuse program), and with a struggling George Sherrill, Jansen’s unexpected rise has energized the Dodgers.
"He’s a bit of fresh air for us," said third baseman Casey Blake. "Without Belisario we’ve been ailing down there a little bit. Guys have been worked pretty hard. It’s nice to see him come in and pitch so well. A couple of tough situations for a young guy, especially [Sunday] in a one-run game and he was nails."
In two perfect innings, the hard-throwing Jansen has four strikeouts. He simply overmatched the New York Mets on Saturday and Sunday. Calm as a morning breeze.
"There’s a calmness and confidence about this youngster, and very respectful of the game," Manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully, that’ the right read I have on him."
The 6-foot-5, 257-pound Jansen is from Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. He speaks English, Spanish, Dutch, French and Papiamento, the official language of Curacao.
He is not your average 22-year-old. Anyway, that’s what the Dodgers hope.
He is, after all, still learning to pitch. Clearly, though, he’s making remarkable progress. Already he shows signs of being more than just a thrower.
"He’s in the 93-94 range and he gets two strikes, and all of a sudden it pops up a little bit," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "He’s got a little something extra. It’s not like he’s just rearing back and throwing as hard as he can every time. He’s under control."
His world could burst in his next appearance. Right now, though, he’s electric and dreaming the dream.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Kenley Jansen pitches for the Dodgers on Sunday. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images