Jansen a pleasant surprise in Dodgers' 'pen

Jansen a pleasant surprise in Dodgers' 'pen

SAN DIEGO -- Perhaps overlooked in all that has gone wrong with the Dodgers this year is the pitching of rookie Kenley Jansen, one graduate of the farm system who has exceeded almost anyone's expectations.

Converted from catching to pitching during the 2009 season, Jansen was called up July 23 from Double-A Chattanooga and has posted numbers gaudy by any standards, let alone for a rookie who began the season in Class A.

In 16 games with the Dodgers, he has a 1.08 ERA, 27 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings and opponents have a .158 batting average against him. Those are closer-type numbers.

Meanwhile, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bullpen coach Ken Howell have been working out the rough spots in this work-in-progress before games. They changed the grip on his breaking ball, firmed up his front side and tried to eliminate upper body rotation.

"Realistically, the guy is still developing at this level," said Howell. "We do dry work every day. It might look like we're doing Minor League things, but it's what we need to complete the package."

Jansen is expected to go to Instructional League after the season to work on his move to first base and slide steps, among other things. Jansen's fastball has hovered around 92-93 mph and Howell said there is more in his arm, but he's already deceptive enough to get late swings, and nobody wants Jansen to start overthrowing looking for more velocity.

"I don't want him to force it," said Howell. "I just want him to understand pitch execution and location. I don't trip on velocity. The hitters let you know. He's only got 40-something innings [this season]. He's just starting."