Tomase: Jansen's encouraging postgame moment is cause for optimism originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
In the commotion of the postgame Red Sox clubhouse, which now glows neon like a Virgin Atlantic cabin and was overrun with reporters and cameras for perhaps the last time this season, a fascinating conversation took place.
In the back corner of the room, young right-hander Zack Kelly sat dejectedly at his locker. He had just made his first Opening Day roster and then promptly failed to deliver, allowing two inherited runners to score on a wild pitch and walk in a 10-9 loss to the Orioles.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
Tomase: Orioles' free rein on basepaths is a bad omen for Red Sox
Kneeling beside him was three-time All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, who did not pitch. The 35-year-old veteran in his 14th season just got here, but he took it upon himself to educate and encourage one of the last arms in Alex Cora's bullpen, a 28-year-old rookie who's already on his third organization.
It was a quiet moment of leadership from a pitcher who has thrown four times as many innings in the postseason as Kelly has in his entire career, and it made an impression.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
"As a guy with not nearly as much experience as him, it just means a lot for him to come over and do that," Kelly said. "He's only been here a month. He didn't have to do that. The mental part of it, the execution part of it, the pitching part, it means a lot."
Kelly is a changeup artist, and on a 38-degree afternoon, he had no feel for the pitch. He did have command of his fastball, however, and the lesson he learned Thursday is that sometimes you've got to throw what's working rather than what got you here.
"Obviously, everybody knows I throw a lot of changeups, and it wasn't there today," Kelly said. "It didn't feel good coming out of the hand, the execution wasn't there, and in that situation, you don't have time to try to figure it out. You can't just throw away a couple of pitches trying to feel it out. You've got to go to something else.
"That's my main frustration today looking back at it, that I was successful with my fastball and I should've went to it sooner."
That was just part of the wisdom Jansen imparted during his pep talk, which Kelly believes points to a strength of the team.
Tomase: Silver linings from Red Sox' non-disastrous opener
"It means a lot," Kelly said. "As good as he is, all the accolades that he's earned, everything he's got, he's still a team-first guy. I think that's what this clubhouse is built around, team-first guys. We've got a ton of new faces, but you can't tell, it feels like we've been teammates for years.
"Today didn't go our way, tough one to swallow, especially with how we battled at the end, but I'm not surprised. We could've easily mailed it in there and tipped our caps and said, 'See you on Saturday,' but we didn't, and we were in it until the very last strike, and I think that's what you're going to see a lot of this year."
So file away that small moment at Kelly's locker, which at the very least suggests newcomers like Jansen are already stepping into leadership roles on a remade roster.