FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kenley Jansen hasn’t had much change in scenery over the course of his 13-year career.
He spent his first 12 years with the Dodgers, the organization that originally signed him in 2004 as an amateur free agent catcher. They transitioned him to a pitcher in 2009, a move credited to De Jon Watson, the Dodgers’ assistant general manager at the time and now the Nationals’ head of player development.
That’s when Jansen took off, ultimately becoming one of the most dominant closers in the big leagues. He has earned three All-Star appearances and played on a World Series winner in 2020. He became a linchpin and a mainstay in the Dodgers bullpen.
But he was uprooted for the first time in 2022 when he signed on with the Braves. It happened again this offseason when he agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with the Red Sox.
The Braves hoped he could help deliver them another championship in 2022 at the back part of the bullpen. The Sox, meanwhile, hope he can help fortify a bullpen that was a huge weakness last season.
Jansen is used to the expectations, which is a huge reason why both the Braves and Red Sox coveted the righthander.
Jansen readily accepts these new challenges, but with the perspective of change.
“The one thing I learned is to always be yourself,” said Jansen. “Being in one clubhouse for a long time makes it a little easier. And last year I learned to be yourself and learn to put personalities around you. This year is going to be the same thing: Learn my teammates and get ready to work.”
The work part of it will be guided by Jansen, a right of veterans who have earned it and know their bodies. The Sox want to ensure they have their closer for the long haul.
“He needs to be ready by March 30,” manager Alex Cora said. “That’s the goal.”
Jansen wants to make sure he’s ready, too, so he won’t participate in the World Baseball Classic unless the Netherlands makes it to the semifinals in Miami. With MLB’s new pitch clock, Jansen wants to make sure he takes the time to adjust, pointing out that “I’m the slowest in the league.”
Plus, he wants to immerse himself in his new team as much as possible.
“I just want to make sure I can be here, learn the personalities around here,” Jansen said.
Jansen calls Fenway Park one of his favorite ballparks, despite its short dimensions and Jansen yielding the highest fly-ball rate of his career last season at 39.1 percent, which was just above league average.
“Fenway and Wrigley,” Jansen said. “Every time I went to those stadiums when I was on the other side, it just felt like you’re in the major leagues. Fenway is one of the most historic ballparks in the game, and it’s going to be exciting.”
The bullpen finally has the structure the Red Sox value.
As closer, Jansen leads the way.
“We expect this guy to be the guy that he’s been since his Dodger days,” Cora said.