When the Dodgers acquired Brandon League last season and made him their closer many people wondered why they’d do that with a far superior option available in Kenley Jansen. And then when the Dodgers re-signed League to a bloated three-year, $22.5 million deal and stuck with him as their closer many people wondered the same thing again.
Things have played out as expected, with League struggling in the closer role and Jansen being his usual dominant self as a setup man, and manager Don Mattingly appears to have finally seen the light.
Jansen got the nod over League to record the final out (and save) after Clayton Kershaw came up just short of a complete-game shutout last night and afterward Mattingly was evasive when asked if ninth-inning duties had changed hands:
We’ll see. I don’t know if I really have to set roles. We always talk about where we’re at in the lineup. I know we like to create controversies and all that. Honestly, I prefer having roles where everybody knows where they’re at. But tonight I felt like Kenley was the best shot of getting that guy out.
He’s right of course, although the same applies every night.
Jansen debuted in 2010 and has thrown 166 innings with a 2.23 ERA, .152 opponents’ batting average, and 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is arguably the most dominant performance of any pitcher in baseball during that time.
Over the same span League has thrown 227 innings with a 3.34 ERA, .241 opponents’ batting average, and 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be perfectly good late-inning relief work and perhaps even closer-worthy if not for the fact that Jansen is on the same team.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.