Until recently, the comparisons between Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen were premature at best, superficial at worst.
Jansen converted from a catcher to a pitcher at age 21 in 2009. Two years later, he was pitching for the Dodgers.
Baez converted from a third baseman to a pitcher at age 24 in 2013. One year later, he was pitching for the Dodgers.
The key difference: It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jansen never struggled as a rookie. In his first 25 games with the Dodgers in 2010, he allowed two runs. Two.
Baez made his major-league debut on May 5 against the Washington Nationals. Here’s how that went: Single, home run, strikeout, flyball, strikeout. Two months in the minor leagues followed. Baez pitched a perfect inning of relief on July 8 against the Detroit Tigers. Another month in the minor leagues followed.
Baez’s career trajectory could no longer be confused for that of Jansen.
Since his latest major-league call up on August 7, however, Baez has looked like a closer in the making.
“The (first) two games that I used him, I gave him Trout, Pujols and Hamilton one game (against the Angels),” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “The second game was Lucroy, Braun and Ramirez. I gave him the total heart of the lineup.”
Baez didn’t allow a run in either game and faced one batter over the minimum. He hasn’t allowed a run since that two-run homer back in May, by the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa. That’s a total of six straight scoreless appearances for Baez, if you’re counting at home.
If you’re in Albuquerque, don’t count on seeing Baez back with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate soon.
Mixing a fastball in the high-90 mph range with an occasional slider or changeup in the high 80s, Baez has the hard repertoire to match Jansen. It might be safe to resume the comparisons now.
They both throw “pretty much one pitch for the most part,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “(Baez) has actually got a pretty good changeup and he’s working on the breaking ball. Different body styles. He’s kind of like a bull and Kenley’s taller, but a lot of similarities as far as the one pitch and the conversion.”