ANAHEIM, Calif. — Saturday’s outing against the Padres wasn’t pretty for Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen. He walked two in the ninth, bringing the winning run to the plate, but ultimately was able to secure a save after Jake Cronenworth popped out to third baseman Rafael Devers.
Command has been off for Jansen, who blew back-to-back saves against the Cardinals recently which helped St. Louis to a sweep at Fenway. Jansen walked just three in his first 12 appearances (11⅔ innings) to start the year, striking out 17. In his last three appearances Jansen has walked six and struck out none.
Jansen relayed before the Sox’ 2-1 loss to open a three-game set against the Angels Monday that his poor results are due to poor mechanics.
“The way my body is positioned right now, [my arm] is late,” Jansen said.
Essentially, Jansen’s body is going forward well before his arm. As a result, Jansen’s arm drags or he has to create arm speed in an effort to have everything synched up correctly. That, however, leads to some of the erratic control over the last week or so. For Jansen, the issue occurred following his 400th save against the Braves.
“Sometimes things just happen,” Jansen said. “It’s not an excuse or anything. It’s just reality that sometimes when you get to a big milestone, your adrenaline is so high that the next day you come out flat and you try to recreate that moment or that feeling. You can get yourself out of whack which kind of happened a little bit. So you just got to stay patient.”
Jansen, who had a 0.77 ERA after his Atlanta outing but now has seen it skyrocket to 3.95 entering Monday, has thrown 36 pitches in his last three outings with just a 44 percent strike rate. Manager Alex Cora noticed that Jansen’s cutter has lacked command.
“The cutter has been down in the zone,” Cora noted. “It’s usually up. So he thinks there’s something going on. Just kind of like staying closed [during his delivery] and being able to repeat his delivery. So hopefully we can do that.”
Jansen is extremely confident that he’s turning a corner. Despite the lack of command that continued into Sunday, the closer knows that once everything clicks, he will be back to his usual dominant self.
“I had two humble pies,” said Jansen, referencing his two blown saves. “Now we’re back on track. Back on earth.”
Wong strong behind the plate
Connor Wong entered Monday with 1.1 defensive WAR, per Baseball-Reference, which ranks third in the majors among all position players.
“He’s been a work-in-progress since he got here,” Cora said. “Not too many people thought that he was going to become an everyday player. He’s physically stronger than 2021.”
Cora credited Nate Eovaldi, who threw bullpens to Wong during the COVID-19 shutdown, as the first person to highlight Wong’s ability behind the plate. Eovaldi mentored Wong even more last year when they were teammates for parts of the season, carrying their conversations over from 2020 regarding game planning and what it takes to remain at the big league level.
“I’ll tip my hat to Nate,” Cora said. “Usually you take care of your pitchers. If you’re a pitcher, you take care of pitchers. But he took care of Connor and we can see it.”
Bleier to the IL
Richard Bleier was placed on the 15-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation. Bleier has had a terrible season, compiling a 5.85 ERA in 19 appearances.
“He’s been grinding throughout,” Cora said. “It started during the two-inning relief appearance at home [against the Twins on April 19]. He hasn’t been able to bounce back. Yesterday we talked about it and smart thing to do is to do this.”
The Sox called up lefthander Brennan Bernardino to fill Bleier’s spot.
On the mend
Yu Chang (hamate bone fracture) could start a rehab assignment Wednesday while Christian Arroyo (hamstring) could begin his rehab assignment Friday … Justin Turner was back in the lineup after missing two games with a sore left knee … Kiké Hernández was scheduled for an off day Monday, but entered the game at shortstop in the eighth inning for Pablo Reyes.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.