The ninth inning was done, the Dodgers had won a one-run game, and the closer had struck out the side. “I Love L.A” blared from the sound system.
The scene at Dodger Stadium was familiar, except for the identity of the closer. When the bullpen gate swung open and he entered the game, “California Love” did not blare from the sound system.
Corey Knebel earned the save, closing the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory over the Washington Nationals in Friday’s home opener. That left Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to explain why he did not use longtime closer Kenley Jansen.
Roberts said the Dodgers did not want to use Jansen for what would have been the third time in four days.
“He’s in the same bucket as all of our other pitchers and players,” Roberts said, “just managing workload and understanding and appreciating that we have a long season in front of us.”
In the first two weeks last season, the Dodgers twice used Jansen three times in four days. In the 60-game season, they used him that way seven times.
The Dodgers have not used any reliever three times in four days so far this season.
“We’ll see as the season plays out,” Roberts said, “but we wanted to stay away from him today.”
On Wednesday, Jansen blew the save against the Oakland Athletics. He faced six batters and retired three, giving up the tying run and striking out none. On Friday, Victor Gonzalez, Blake Treinen and Knebel combined for three scoreless innings, with six strikeouts.
Jansen’s fading velocity and inconsistent command have made the question of whether he remains the Dodgers’ closer a recurrent one for Roberts. Knebel, a former All-Star closer with the Milwaukee Brewers, has faced 11 batters this year, giving up no runs and striking out six.
So is Knebel the closer for now? Roberts paused for a fair amount of time before answering.
“I think we’re just in a really good spot,” he said, “whether it’s Victor for a certain run, Corey or Blake. I feel good about any one of those guys outside of Kenley.”
One way to put it: The Dodgers have four late-game options. How the Dodgers use Jansen will reveal itself as the season unfolds. For now, Roberts is proclaiming the benefits of depth in handling Jansen.
“I think it’s appreciating what we went through last year and understanding we want to play through October,” Roberts said, “and we have to take care of all our guys.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.