The Closer Conundrum


Spring Training camp has yet to even open, and the Dodgers already have a huge injury to put a damper on all of our spirits going into Thursday’s report day for pitchers and catchers. I was so happy to read all the stories about Spring Training commencing this week, and the baseball pictures had me all giddy. That is until the news about Kenley Jansen dropped me into a quick panic on Tuesday evening.

Foot surgery. Out 8-12 weeks. The words hit me like a ton of bricks. Kenley Jansen, who had just recently come to terms with the Dodgers on a new one-year $7.425 contract avoiding arbitration, is going to have to wear a boot on his left foot for 3-4 weeks after surgery.

Jansen underwent surgery on Tuesday after feeling discomfort in his foot while running last week. Tests revealed some sort of growth (bone spurs?) on his foot according to AJ Cassavell of

Now with Jansen not expected to return to the mound any time soon (and please don’t rush him back), the Dodgers will need to either use the pitching options they already have to fill Jansen’s closer role in the interim, or they will need to acquire another closer via trade or free agency.

I’m definitely not feeling the Francisco Rodriguez option, and Adrian has already outlined the grisly details of why the Dodgers should not go that route. I’d rather Chris Hatcher get a look in the late innings or even Joel Peralta before paying a known abuser to pitch for the Dodgers. Domestic violence has no place in baseball or anywhere, and the Dodgers shouldn’t bring that negative baggage to the plate.

The remaining free agents on the market aren’t very inspirational. Old friend Joe Beimel is still available. Joba Chamberlain or Rafael Soriano are both still available, and one of them may just end up on the Dodgers out of desperation. Unless the Dodgers instead go with someone like Chris Hatcher who struck out 60 batters in 56 innings pitched last year in Miami. He has zero saves over his four-year career, but that doesn’t really mean anything.

Joel Peralta does only have 12 saves over his 10-year career, but the Dodgers may try both Peralta and Hatcher in the late innings to close while Jansen is rehabbing. Heck, even Paco Rodriguez may get more of a chance to pitch late innings if the Dodgers don’t pick up another closer. Paco was once the closer for his Florida Gators team in college just a few years removed.

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  • There’s always Brandon League. I know what you may thinking. Brandon League as closer again may be a terrible idea, but he is now the most experienced closer on the team. League’s awful pitching over the first two years of his time with the Dodgers may be hard to forget, but League was actually halfway decent last year. He once did save 37 games with Seattle back in 2011. Now I shudder to think of League pitching out of the ninth inning for the Dodgers in enough games to reach double digit saves, but without Jansen the Dodgers will need to find alternative solutions for the closer job while Kenley is disabled.

    J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez are better used as left-handed specialists than closers. Hatcher seems like the best potential temporary closer in my opinion, but I wouldn’t rule out Brandon League entirely. With a very shaky 2014 which has not been forgotten, the Dodgers bullpen cannot possibly be any worse in 2015. Or can they?

    I gushed over Kenley Jansen’s beautiful cutter earlier this offseason, and I’m sad to see him injured before he even had a chance to begin Spring Training. Jansen was so integral to the Dodgers success over the past two seasons which garnered them consecutive division titles. Even though the Dodgers bullpen was unreliable last season, Jansen’s contributions in the ninth inning really counterbalanced the lack of late inning offensive spark by the Dodgers. Jansen has made a name for himself as an elite closer.  Losing Kenley to injury, even if temporarily, is a huge blow to the Dodgers.

    Dodger fans will have to wait to hear California Love played at Dodger Stadium in 2015, and that makes Spring Training’s opening week a little less jovial.