SAN FRANCISCO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers added a lot of well-paid, veteran relievers to their bullpen over the winter, but the most impactful addition might have shown up all by itself without any contract demands.
Kenley Jansen's fastball came back.
The closer's velocity has ticked up from the 92-to-95 mph range it inhabited last season when he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball to 95-to-100 mph territory, a place few other pitchers inhabit.
"It used to be there, man," Jansen said. "In the minor leagues in 2010, it was there for me -- 98, hitting 102. It just left for the last two years."
Fangraphs credits Jansen with a 3-mph boost to his fastball. Why has it returned? And is it a good thing?
Jansen says he thinks a normal off-season -- entering 2013 he was still recovering from a cardiac ablation to fix an abnormal heartbeat -- had something to do with it. He continues his running over the winter and felt stronger in spring training. He also attributes throwing a two-seam fastball -- or sinker -- for an uptick in velocity. Jansen's two different fastball looks tend to get lumped together because he throws them at similar velocities.
The numbers have been fairly consistent park to park and radar gun to radar gun. He used a 98-mph fastball to help strike out Miguel Cabrera at Dodger Stadium. He used a 100-mph fastball to help strike out Mark Trumbo at Chase Field.
Jansen admits he doesn't get as much lateral movement on his cutter -- which has been compared to that of Mariano Rivera -- at the increased velocity, but he'll take all the extra mph he can get. The results have been only so-so as Jansen has blown two of his last three save chances, including Tuesday night in San Francisco. His ERA is at 4.50 and he has already given up two home runs. He gave up six all last year and six the year before that.
"It makes it a little straighter, but I feel like the velocity makes it move a little later and that's better," Jansen said. "I don't have the big cut, but I have late cut. It feels like a weapon."