The kid didn't become a pitcher until a year ago — and there he was, a former catcher standing on the mound for the Dodgers, the game resting in his 22-year-old hands.
Kenley Jansen tried to keep cool, not looking into the crowd, not thinking about the moment, even though it was his dream, one people told him could come true if he switched positions because his strong arm was better throwing fastballs than catching them.
So, he just stared at his catcher, and those hands fired heat until the final batter struck out and the crowd roared and a celebration ensued.
Jansen's perfect ninth inning Sunday gave him the first save of his career and the Dodgers a 1-0 win against the New York Mets in front of an announced crowd of 39,897 at Dodger Stadium.
"It's a dream come true for me," Jansen said.
Yet, the original plan didn't call for Jansen, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander from Curacao, to save the Dodgers' day.
Clayton Kershaw had thrown eight shutout innings, but Dodgers Manager Joe Torre worried that Kershaw's pitch count (112) was too high for him to throw one more, especially against the Mets' No. 4-5-6 hitters.
He took Kershaw out, but the bullpen didn't offer any enticing replacements. Mostly just tired arms since nine pitchers had thrown Saturday in a 13-inning win. And Jansen was one of those nine, throwing a perfect inning in his major league debut.
Torre liked his stuff but wasn't sure if Jansen could pitch on consecutive days. Then again, it helped that Jansen did just that a week before for double-A Chattanooga, from which the Dodgers called him up Friday.
"I'm glad they did because it gave us a license to do it [Sunday]," Torre said.
Jansen didn't know he'd be called on until he was, and seemed shaky to start, working the count to 3-1 against Carlos Beltran.
Then, he got Beltran to pop out. Four pitches later, he struck out Jason Bay on a 91-mph fastball. And with the crowd on its feet and the count full, Jansen threw a 95-mph pitch past Ike Davis for the final out.
"He's electric," catcher Russell Martin said.
Jansen's save gave Kershaw his 10th win of the season, the first time Kershaw has reached double-digit wins in his career.
Kershaw raced from the dugout and wrapped his arms around Jansen in celebration after the final strike, but there's history there:
When Kershaw was drafted, Jansen was his first catcher in the Gulf Coast League.
"He had an incredible arm back then," Kershaw said. "He's a great guy and showed a lot of whatever-you-want-to-say to go out there in the ninth inning and close it down."
The Dodgers' run came courtesy of 36-year-old Casey Blake in the eighth inning, as he dived into home plate after racing from first base on Martin's double to left center with two out.
"I was just hoping my legs stayed together," Blake joked.
Then it came down to Jansen, and he delivered.
"There's a calmness and a confidence about this youngster and a very respectful look at the game," Torre said. "Hopefully, that's the right read I have, but it seems that way."
Torre noted how because Jansen was a catcher, that might help him make adjustments as a pitcher, and Jansen agreed.
Torre also noted how he and Jansen took opposite routes to the majors.
"I went the other way," said Torre, who said he pitched in high school before becoming a catcher. "That pitching stuff wasn't going to do it."
It did for Jansen, and moments after recording the final out, he pointed toward the sky.
He had saved a team from losing, but he felt saved himself.
"A year ago, catching, I didn't know where my future was," he said. "And then everything turned on. It's just amazing."
Buy Dodgers tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.