Dave Roberts has been reluctant to go away from Kenley Jansen as the Dodgers closer — but there’s no justification for sticking with him right now.
Through four playoff games, two against a legitimate opponent in the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers have proven analysts correct. Yes, they are a juggernaut. But yes, they also somehow still have an exposed Achilles’ heel.
The bullpen, while stocked with young arms like Brusdar Graterol and reclamation projects like Blake Treinen, still lacks the trademark stopper. The trustworthy flamethrower who embodies an exclamation point, warming in a matter of seconds and sucking an opponent’s momentum away with a scowl.
After last week’s scattered Game 1 outing against the Brewers, Roberts entered the clubhouse the next day and declared to reporters that he’d re-watched Jansen’s outing and decided it was stronger than it appeared to the naked eye.
We’re not sure if he decided to reassess the highlights because he actually doubted his intuition, or because he knew he had to find the thinnest of silver linings, without any other slam-dunk replacements available.
So, who’s the closer, if Jansen and his flat cutter relinquish the role? Is it Treinen, who has one of the most dominant relief seasons in recent years on his ledger (2018 in Oakland)? Is it Kelly, who proved in Game 2 that he’s always a sweaty malfunction away from making things just as interesting in all the wrong ways?
Or perhaps it’s Graterol temporarily, the young flamethrower with an explosion of emotion waiting to seep from his pores, whether the pitch ends up in the catcher’s glove or 407 feet away.
There’s not enough velocity on Jansen’s cutter right now, and it cannot be trusted.
As far as we’re concerned, “Graterol as 2002 K-Rod” feels like the right direction to explore.