Kenley Jansen or Javy Guerra?
The question of who should pitch the ninth inning has entered Don Mattingly’s mind, even though Guerra was 21 for 23 in save opportunities last season –an outstanding 91.3 percent conversion rate. With both pitchers throwing a scoreless inning in their spring debut Wednesday, the question was put to Mattingly again: Have you thought about swapping their roles?
“It’s hard not to with those two,” he said. “Kenley with what he was able to do last year — but you guys look at the very end, but you don’t think about what happened at the beginning, and that’s how it got to there.”
For the uninitiated: Jansen had an 11.42 ERA through his first eight appearances of 2011. Once Jonathan Broxton’s season was over, Guerra grabbed the closer’s role, and was pretty firmly entrenched by the time Jansen was even part of the conversation. As a mostly middle-inning reliever, Jansen allowed only two runs the final four months of the season, displaying the makeup of a closer along the way.
“It’s hard not to think of Kenley kind of like that,” Mattingly said. “I’m going to go back to what I’ve always talked about: Javy kind of took that role last year and didn’t drop the ball. It’s hard to say to a guy ‘you didn’t do the job.’ He did the job. That’s kind of where I can see it right now.”
Displaying rare candor for a manger, Mattingly added this:
“I really don’t know what the right decision is, honestly. If they both throw the ball the way they’re capable of, [it’s a] good problem. I told Kenley that I really think he’d like to close at some point. … What they’ve both said, which has been the best thing for me, is ‘we get to the eighth, the game’s over.’ That’s the kind of mentality that i want those guys to have, not to be in a situation where Kenley says ‘I want to close’ and just looking for Javy to stumble when I want to win games. These guys are in it, talking about winning games, and honestly from that point, the game’s going to tell me what to do. The game will say ‘split them.’ The game will say ‘leave them.’ The game will say ‘[Mike] MacDougal.’ The game will tell me what to do.”
But before you go dropping Guerra on your fantasy draft projection chart …
“It’s defined,” Mattingly said of the closer role. “Javy’s the guy. We know who the guy is right now. I’m not only going to say [it’s] a problem, we just know if it doesn’t work out, we’ve got a different guy there. As long as these guys know we’re all in it for him — it’s not a competition to see who gets that role. Both guys are settled. They know what it is. Nobody’s complaining. Nobody’s fighting. They’re both competitive, that’s fine. They’ve talked about it before I even talked to them. i knew we were on the right track right away. “