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Dodgers' Kenley Jansen called up to pitch

The 22-year-old had never pitched before last season, when he was still known as a strong-armed catcher. Jansen has been clocked in the mid-to-high 90s.

July 23, 2010|By Dylan Hernandez

A couple of years ago, Kenley Jansen would have found what happened to him Friday unthinkable.

The 22-year-old was called up to the major leagues for the first time — as a pitcher.

"It was quick," Jansen said.

Jansen had never pitched before last season, when he was still known as a strong-armed catcher out of Curacao.

The signature moment of his career to that point had come in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when he caught Willy Taveras trying to steal third base in the ninth inning to preserve the Netherlands' one-run lead over the heavily favored Dominican Republic.

But Jansen couldn't hit.

In 4½ minor-league seasons, he batted .229, including .202 in 26 games at Class-A Inland Empire last year.

His offensive shortcomings led farm director DeJon Watson to approach him with a novel idea: Why not try pitching?

"I was scared," Jansen said. "I thought I couldn't do it."

But Watson persisted and Jansen said he decided to trust him.

"They told me that I have a God-given arm," he said.

That radar gun proved that theory correct, as Jansen was clocked in the mid-to-high 90s.

Jansen made his pitching debut for Inland Empire on July 31, 2009. He made 12 appearances before the end of the season and pitched five more times in the Arizona Fall League.

He has been an incredibly quick study.

In a combined 33 appearances between Inland Empire and double-A Chattanooga, Jansen was 5-1 with a 1.60 earned-run average. He saved eight games in double A.

Scouting reports noted his mental makeup.

"His makeup is the reason he's here right now," Manager Joe Torre said.

Jansen could find himself in high-pressure situations soon.

"I think we're going to pitch him later in the game than sooner in the game," General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Kuo wants more

Hong-Chih Kuo has been handled with care by Torre, who is mindful of the four elbow operations the All-Star reliever has endured.

Although grateful, Kuo said he wants Torre to start using him on back-to-back days, something the manager has tried to resist doing as much as possible.

"Joe is trying to protect me," Kuo said. "I understand. But I'll be ready every day."

Kuo, who turned 29 on Friday, was asked if he could pitch three days in a row.

"I can try," he said.

What about four?

He laughed.

"I don't know about that," he said.

Miller grateful for opportunity

To make room on the roster for Jansen, the Dodgers designated reliever Justin Miller for assignment.

A 32-year-old journeyman who grew up in Torrance, Miller said he was glad to have fulfilled his lifelong dream of pitching for the team he used to cheer on as a kid.

"That was big for me," Miller said.

Miller said he was unsure whether he would accept a minor league assignment with the Dodgers if he clears waivers.

Short hops

Closer Jonathan Broxton, who was unavailable Thursday because of a bout with food poisoning, said he felt better and was ready to return. … Reed Johnson has suffered a setback in his return from a back injury and isn't expected to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment until next week. … Friday was feeding day for Larry the Boa, the Dodgers' pet snake. Larry swallowed a frozen mouse.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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