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Tomase: Kenley Jansen, a Switch-Hitting Closer With Pop, Misses Putting on a Show in BP

Tomase: Switch-hitter Kenley Jansen misses putting on hitting displays in BP originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Kenley Jansen believes he has Hall of Fame numbers.

With a bat.

The long-time reliever didn't get the opportunity to swing very often, but when he did, he made an impression. A converted catcher and the rare switch-hitting closer, Jansen boasts a lifetime .333 average and .844 OPS in 13 seasons. He's probably never going to hit again, thanks to the adoption of the universal DH, but at least he has his memories, and he's fine with that, as he made clear when asked if he misses hitting.

"Nooooooo," he said with emphasis. "No. No. No."

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"You get in the big leagues, you know that's not your thing," he said. "My thing is pitching. Because I'm a former hitter, I don't get stressed out about hitting. Just go out there and have fun and maybe you run into a couple of them, and that's what happened."

Jansen signed with the Dodgers as a 17-year-old out of Curacao in 2004 as a tall, skinny catcher. He even played some first base and outfield, opening eyes with laser throws from behind the plate to catch big-league base stealers with Team Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

That performance helped spur his transition to the mound, and 391 saves later, it's safe to say he has no regrets, except maybe one.

"I'll tell you one thing -- I miss hitting in BP," said the 6-5, 265-pounder. "I miss hitting batting practice. That's it. I'm really good at batting practice. They've seen me hit balls way out of Dodger Stadium. I could put on a show in home run derby for you, but when the lights turn on, it's hard for me to see if it's offspeed like a changeup or a fastball."

Jansen's former Dodgers teammates delighted at the absurdity of packing two batting helmets in the equipment bag -- one lefty and one righty -- for the closer who might hit once or twice a year. While there have been some notable switch-hitting starting pitchers over the years -- Carlos Zambrano blasted 24 homers and Hall of Famer Early Wynn added 17 of his own -- Jansen is the rare closer to bat from both sides, joining Norm Charlton, Drew Storen, and Mike MacDougal in recent history.

"He thinks he can do everything with that career .333 average," said Justin Turner. "He's got a good swing and he does switch hit. I think his last hit was a double in Colorado off of Greg Holland, who's obviously a pretty accomplished pitcher. It was hit hard, too. It was hit really hard. Yeah, he can hit a little bit."

Jansen is 3 for 9 with a walk in 10 career plate appearances. He walked in his debut against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo in 2010, and five days later he pinch hit and singled off Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick in his first official at-bat.

He batted just twice in the next six seasons before getting four at-bats in 2017. He singled in one of them, vs. Miami's Odrisamer Despaigne, and his last hit was the RBI double off Holland, a ringing shot that rolled to the center field fence.

"Obviously, every once in a while in a closing role, sometimes you'd come into the game for a four-out save," Turner said. "If that spot comes up in the lineup in the old National League, anyway, he'd have to hit. I like his left-handed swing. I don't know what he thinks."

Jansen agrees that his left-handed swing was best, and he kept his approach optimistically simple.

"To be honest with you, every time I go up with the approach of trying to hit a homer," he said. "I was all in. It was either a homer or nothing. If you ask JT, I let them know about it for a year or two of how great a hitter I am. It was fun, but I'm definitely not missing hitting at all."

Turner actually one-upped Jansen by tossing a scoreless inning vs. the Rockies in 2021, giving him a lifetime ERA of 0.00. "Make sure you mention that to him," Turner said, while Jansen just rolled his eyes.

"He got a zero ERA!" Jansen said. "I had to hear about that for a while. I talked so much crap at how great a hitter I was, and then he had that 1-2-3 inning. We were lockermates, and I had to hear it, I had to listen to it, and he wore me out."

In any event, if Jansen never hits again, that will be OK with him.

"I got that Hall of Fame batting average -- 3 for 9," he said. "I do have Hall of Fame numbers. When I retire, I could go into the Hall of Fame as a hitter."

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