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Dodgers still waiting for Kenley Jansen's 2011 command performance

April 20, 2011 |  9:09 am

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Was it only a dream?

The kid who had been a career catcher is suddenly turned into a reliever and starts throwing lightning? In less than a year, he not only makes it to the majors, he dominates.

Really, it happened. Kenley Jansen came on last July and posted an 0.67 ERA in 25 games. He struck out 50 in 27 innings.

It just seems like some fuzzy dream at the moment, because Jansen is suddenly enormously hittable. He barely resembles the hard-throwing right-hander from last season.

In eight appearances this year, Jansen has an 11.57 ERA. He's given up 13 hits (three homers), walked six and struck out 13 in 8 2/3 innings. Manager Don Mattingly admits to some concern.

"A little, obviously he hasn't been like last year," Mattingly said. "He hasn’t been overpowering.

"His command has not been great, but he really hasn't had that little extra gear yet this year. There's been times he's had it, but I don't think consistently."

Jansen was charged with five runs in one-third of an inning Tuesday against the Braves, though Ramon Troncoso didn't help his cause when he took over and immediately surrendered a three-run homer to Dan Uggla.

With Lance Cormier and Troncoso struggling, the Dodgers can ill afford to have Jansen go south. Jansen thinks the problem is mostly about his command.

"I have to reach back and get ahead of the hitters," he said. "I used to get ahead of these hitters.

"Just keep working hard on it every day and being aggressive."

Jansen, of course, is comparatively young as a pitcher. He's pitched in only 33 games, and only 45 in the minors. Still, that hardly appeared an issue last season.

"Obviously his command has not been quite the same," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "And it's not like he was perfect with his command before. There's no pitcher at this level who can consistently pitch behind in the count. It puts them in definite fastball counts."

Yet even when he's getting his fastball over, it doesn't consistently have the same bite. And his velocity, though still good, is not of the eye-popping variety it was last season.

"I don't know really how to explain it," Mattingly said. "You don't know what's in guys' heads, but you want him to attack. It's really hard to explain velocity-wise why you don't see that same extra gear.

"It's really a matter of when guys are in rhythm and the ball comes out right, it's deceptive. It gets on you. It has that little ride to it. That's the one thing I haven't seen."

Unless it's in his dreams.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Kenley Jansen pitches against St. Louis on Friday. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire

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