Baseball / Sports

Dodgers closer Jansen is on a work overload

LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen has appeared in 16 games this season. No pitcher in the major leagues has pitched in more.

If the Los Angeles Dodgers closer sustains that pace, he will pitch in 100 games this season. Mike Marshall has the record with 106 appearances in 1974.

"I won't get there," Jansen said. "Hopefully not."

Jansen laughed.

"No," Jansen said, "definitely don't want that."

Jansen did not pitch Monday because the Dodgers had a day off. The team opens a three-game series at Minnesota on Tuesday, which is the start of a nine-day, three-city trip.

Manager Don Mattingly has said he is concerned about Jansen's early workload.

Jansen, 26, is in his third full major league season. Provided he remains healthy, his prime seasons could be ahead of him and Mattingly doesn't want to compromise the pitcher's future.

Even before the season started, the Dodgers were mindful of how they were using Jansen. He appeared in 75 games last season, which tied him for fourth in the National League.

Jansen is confident Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will protect his arm.

"Donnie and Honeycutt, they always have my back, so I'm not worried at all," Jansen said. "They've been doing a good job. I appreciate how they've been taking care of me."

Jansen wasn't supposed to pitch this much, but Dodgers starters are averaging fewer than six innings per start and there have been six extra-inning games. Also, with Brian Wilson's earned-run average at 14.40 and Brandon League unreliable in tight situations, other relievers have taken on a disproportionate share of the workload.

Left-hander J.P. Howell was tied for third in the NL in appearances through Sunday with 14. Chris Perez and Jamey Wright had each made 13 appearances.

Saturday's game illustrated the problem. The Dodgers went into the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies with a 6-3 lead. But Wilson walked the first two batters he faced, prompting Mattingly to use Jansen on a day he wanted to rest him.

Jansen recorded his league-leading ninth save, but threw 18 pitches in his fifth appearance in eight days. The stretch was even more challenging for Jansen because he was battling the flu.

Jansen said there were some positive aspects to pitching as much as he has. He said the frequency of the work has allowed him to find a rhythm. Jansen hasn't been charged with a run in any of his last five games. He has also converted his last five save opportunities.

"It helped me get ready quicker," he said. "But you don't want this to happen, either."

Tuesday's game against the Twins begins a stretch of games on 16 consecutive days, but Jansen doesn't expect the work to keep piling up.

"I'm not worried," he said. "I know these guys are pros. The whole team is going to start clicking. When they do, I might not be in there for a while. That's how this game works."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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