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Kenley Jansen reflects on closing $4.3-million deal with the Dodgers

Right-hander, who was paid $512,000 last season, avoids an arbitration hearing by agreeing to the contract and looks back at his start in pro baseball as a catcher.

February 11, 2014|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Kenley Jansen throws during a practice Tuesday at the Dodgers' Spring Training home in Glendale, Ariz.
Kenley Jansen throws during a practice Tuesday at the Dodgers' Spring… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)

PHOENIX — Shortly after he avoided an arbitration hearing with the Dodgers and agreed to a $4.3-million salary for the upcoming season, Kenley Jansen reflected on how he went from a light-hitting catching prospect to the closer of baseball's most expensive team.

"It's unbelievable how stuff works that quick," Jansen said. "Now, a million-dollar contract. That's pretty awesome."

Jansen, 26, was paid $512,000 last season. When he and the Dodgers exchanged salary figures last month, he asked for $5.05 million and the team offered $3.5 million. An arbitration hearing was scheduled for Feb. 18 in Florida.

Jansen, the Dodgers' last arbitration-eligible player, feigned disappointment and joked, "I wanted to show my suit and tie."

Less than five years ago, Jansen was a catcher in the Dodgers farm system. He was moved to the mound midway through the 2009 season and reached the majors the next year.

Jansen established himself as the team's closer last season, when he saved 28 games and had a 1.88 earned-run average in 75 games.

He said the highlight of his season was closing out the deciding game of a National League division series against the Atlanta Braves.

"That was pretty exciting," he said. "I came in the ninth, got three outs and clinched. That was a good feeling."

New diet, new body

Determined to catch more games this season, A.J. Ellis dedicated the off-season to resculpting his body.

This meant Ellis had to avoid places such as Cracker Barrel and Waffle House.

"One thing that's not on the diet: Cracker Barrel breakfast," Ellis said. "That is not on the A.J. Ellis off-season itinerary."

Ellis said he lost 15 pounds after last season, when he started 109 regular-season games.

"Trying to take stress off my lower body," Ellis said. "I want to catch 120, 125 games this year. I want to be physically ready to do that."

Short hops

The Dodgers full squad is not due to report until Thursday, but several position players are already in camp, including Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero and Dee Gordon. Kemp, who underwent ankle surgery over the off-season, still hasn't started running. … Top pitching prospect Zach Lee strained a side muscle before spring training and hasn't thrown a bullpen session.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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