LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers reinstated closer Kenley Jansen from the 15-day disabled list for Friday night's game against the Colorado Rockies, after blown saves by Yimi Garcia in each of the rookie's previous two outings.
"It's just nice to have one of the top closers in baseball back and healthy and getting his season started," said manager Don Mattingly, whose team began the day leading the NL West by four games over San Diego. "To be in this position and now to have him back feels really good."
Jansen was 2-3 with a 2.76 ERA and a career-high 44 saves — third-best in the NL — for Los Angeles last year. He became the fourth reliever in Dodgers' history to record a 40-save season. His 106 career saves ranked fifth in franchise history.
He hasn't pitched for the two-time defending West Division champions since the Division Series, missing the first 34 games after having surgery to remove a growth from a bone in his left foot on Feb. 17. The Dodgers were 22-12 in his absence.
"I definitely feel great about coming back," the sixth-year veteran right-hander said. "I mean, 12 weeks is really long. The last time I pitched was October against the Cardinals, so it's been a long time. I'm just happy to be part of the team again and I'm looking forward to it."
Jansen pitched in six rehab games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA, and striking out eight and walking one. He last pitched for the Quakes on Wednesday, striking out two and throwing 13 pitches in a perfect inning.
"It was very challenging, just learning how to be patient with this injury. But I'm glad I went through it," Jansen said. "The good thing was that I was able to rest my arm a little bit, so the operation helped me a lot. I did everything that they wanted me to do, and I'm ready to pitch again.
The Dodgers freed up a roster spot for Jansen by optioning Daniel Coulombe to Triple-A Oklahoma City, one day after the left-hander was recalled from the minors to replace the injured Pedro Baez on the roster. Baez is sidelined with a strained pectoral muscle on his right side.
Jansen rejoins a bullpen that had a 2.06 ERA prior to Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Rockies, when Garcia gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Gonzalez with two out in the ninth.
"It didn't look like they missed me, because they performed really well and I'm happy about that," Jansen said. "I'm sad to see Baez go on the DL. He and Yimi and Chris Hatcher and all those guys did a terrific job while I was out. Now we lose Baez, but hopefully he'll get better soon, and then we'll have one of the best bullpens in the game."
Mattingly is sticking to his plan of easing Jansen back into the mix with an inning or two in non-stressful situations. The Dodgers begin a three-game series at San Francisco next Tuesday, and Jansen is confident he's be closing by then. The Dodgers are 5 1/2 games ahead of the defending World Series champions in the division.
"It's better this way. At least I'll get an inning to get my feel back," he said.
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