LOS ANGELES -- Even Mariano Rivera -- considered the game's best closer by many -- wasn't immune to rust.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, from his time in the Yankees organization, knows that better than anyone. So with the Dodgers leading the White Sox, 5-2, in the ninth inning Monday and with closer Kenley Jansen having not pitched since May 26, Mattingly pulled cruising starter Clayton Kershaw after just 97 pitches and handed Jansen the ball.
"Kenley hadn't pitched in four or five days, and I've had that experience with Mariano over the years," Mattingly said. "If you let a guy sit too long, it's not good. So I need to get him into a game."
If Jansen was rusty, he didn't show it. After allowing an infield single to lead off the night, the right-hander punched out the next three batters, including slugger Jose Abreu, who homered earlier in the evening.
"I just had to go out there and let it loose," Jansen said. "Sometimes when you have long days, five days, you have to go out there and be aggressive."
Jansen has converted his last 13 save opportunities since April 17 and is tied for the MLB lead with 17 saves. The Dodgers bullpen as a whole has excelled of late, posting scoreless outings in eight of its last 10 games.
Mattingly credited a more consistent starting staff for the bullpen's increased effectiveness.
"Early in the year we were worried about the number of games and usage," Mattingly said. "I think our starting pitching has put our bullpen back in order."
While Jansen, who's appeared in 28 games, will certainly take the rest, he said he was also itching to return to the mound.
"I want to get in there every day," he said. "The coaches are going to slow me down. Whenever we have a lead or something like that, I want to be out there and try to help my team."
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less