Kenley Jansen was always there for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
“He made my job much easier,’’ Roberts said.
Now it becomes a little tougher.
A couple of days after star first baseman Freddie Freeman left Atlanta and joined the Dodgers, Jansen went the other direction, leaving Los Angeles and signing a one-year free-agent contract with the Braves.
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The $16 million deal that was announced Friday night left the Dodgers without their longtime closer. Jansen had spent 12 years with the team and took over the role in 2012, four years before Roberts became their manager.
“To have a guy that you can count on, to stay healthy and to be good, really good, is certainly not lost on me,’’ Roberts said before the Dodgers boarded a bus Saturday for Peoria and a spring training game against Seattle.
“I think that over the last few years, there’s been some sentiment that he wasn’t what he should have been. That’s completely false. I do think that as a closer, things are more magnified. They should be," he said. “But this guy was as dependable as any in the history of the game. The numbers don’t lie. They really don’t.”
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After a couple of up-and-down seasons, he was impressive in 2021, finishing with 38 saves and a 2.22 ERA, going 2-2 in 69 games.
Jansen, a 34-year-old right-hander who began as a catcher, has a career 2.37 ERA with a team-record 350 saves.
“Except for when we play the Braves, he will always be a Dodger,’’ Roberts said.
Jansen turned down an offer to stay in Los Angeles.
“With the timing, it just didn’t work out,’’ Roberts said. “He had to take care of his family. Take care of business. We had to move on.”
Jansen was popular within the clubhouse, and it was evident that he’ll be missed.
“He’s been a teammate since I’ve been here,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “We’ve been through hard-fought battles with him. We’ve been in a lot of tough spots with him and a lot of good spots. People come, go. It’s crazy.”
It's not clear yet how the Dodgers will fill the closer’s role. They could do it by committee, perhaps with Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Hudson and Brusdar Graterol sharing the role
“Just do it by who’s available and what gives us the best chance to win,’’ Roberts said.
Treinen was an All-Star closer with the Oakland A’s in 2018. Hudson was a closer for the Washington Nationals in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers welcomed veteran pitcher Tyler Anderson to camp. They hope Anderson, who signed a one-year $8 million contract, will add some depth to the starting rotation. The 32-year-old left-hander started 31 games last season, 13 in Seattle and 18 in Pittsburgh.
“He was a starter,’’ Roberts said. “He is a starter. This was a no-brainer.’’
NOTES: Clayton Kershaw turned 34 on Saturday. It was hard not to see who Roberts likes in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA was stitched on to the top of his white shoes. The Bruins played Saint Mary’s on Saturday.