Dodgers might not use Kenley Jansen as their closer when he returns from the DL.

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen saved 44 games in 2014, his first full season as the Dodgers’ closer. (Getty Images)

Kenley Jansen begins his rehab assignment tonight for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He’s expected to pitch the first inning, then come out of the game. If all goes well, he’ll start again for the Quakes on Sunday.

The rehab assignment is expected to span “at least 5 or 6” appearances, according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. In theory, then, Jansen might rejoin the Dodgers on May 11, when they return home from next week’s road trip through Milwaukee and Denver.

Jansen has been the Dodgers’ closer for all or part of the last three seasons. Naturally, he’d be the Dodgers’ closer again when he returns, right?

Not necessarily, Mattingly said Friday.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do,” he said. “The way our bullpen works right now, I think that’s what we’ll — as long as Kenley’s healthy and able to go back-to-back, and we’re not trying to protect him in any way. At some point I think that’s what we’d like to get to. Now is that the first time out or second time out? I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that, if we’re going to be able to ease him back in, or if it just jumps right into that.”

The way the Dodgers bullpen works right now is interesting. Four different pitchers have pitched in save situations. Lefty-righty matchups have dictated where certain pitchers have pitched. The inning of the game has too, to an extent, along with how much leverage the hitting team holds in the situation. A chart is useful:

To interpret: Juan Nicasio usually pitches with the Dodgers are trailing on the scoreboard (the “BHD” column). Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell frequently pitch when the Dodgers are ahead (the “AHD” column) and in high-leverage situations (as measured by “ALI”). Joel Peralta has gotten the most save opportunities (SVOPP) and saves (SV) but is currently on the disabled list.

If Jansen does get all the save opportunities once he returns, something will change for a Dodgers team that has spread its save opportunities around. If Jansen doesn’t get all the save opportunities once he returns, something will be changing for him. That’s the role he’s used to.

Stay tuned.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.