Griffin: Janssen emerges from manager-imposed sabbatical
BALTIMORE-Casey Janssen had been sidelined, a healthy observer from the Blue Jays' bullpen for nine days after blowing a save in the eighth inning against the Orioles on April 14. Wilson Betemit had slammed a two-run homer to right to tie the game in the eighth and after that, the 30-year-old righthander was not called upon by his manager until Tuesday at Camden Yards in a 2-1 loss that opened the series against the O's.
Jays manager John Farrell has said in the past that handling his bullpen was an Achilles heel during his first season in 2011 and promised he would be better about assigning roles and letting his relief pitchers know what the deal was. Janssen was a test. He had a breakout year in '11, blew a save early in '12 and then sat out for over a week. Janssen didn't understand but was not about to rock the boat by asking what was going on.
“You've got to stay ready," Janssen explained. "At times you get antsy because you want to perform. At the same time, with the depth of this bullpen and the quality of our starters, there aren't a whole lot of innings to be had, in general. So, you've got to wait your turn and you've got to try and impress every time you go out there."
It's a positive sign for Janssen's character that despite signing a two-year contract, plus an option this past offseason, making him the most financially secure of his young life, he still cares more about contributing to his team daily than just taking his paycheque twice a month.
“The day you get comfortable, regardless of contract or anything else, is the day this game is going to catch up with you," Janssen said. "For me, I'm just continuing to try and get better. Continuing to prove my worth and obviously trying to help this team as much as I can to compete and win."
Janssen emerged as a solid late-inning option for the Jays in 2011. He was 6-0, with a 2.26 ERA in 55 games, posting a solid 1.096 WHIP. His strongest assets, as often trumpeted by Farrell, is his ability to handle left-handers and right-handers and to control the running game. Yet, after being used five times in the Jays' first eight games, he failed once and then sat for over a week. Who do you talk to? Pete Walker, the bullpen coach? Bruce Walton, the pitchijng coach and always a good listener? Farrell?
“You don't really ask," Janssen said. "I guess there'd be a point where you see fit, but we're 20 games in. We need our bullpen. Our bullpen is going to be a strength. I feel like it is a strength. There's going to be plenty of innings to go around. You start ruffling feathers, wondering what your role is, it's way too early.”
With the injury to Sergio Santos, the Jays are going to need Janssen to step back in and be effective in the eighth inning, as part of the setup trio for newly anointed closer Francisco Cordero. Farrell acknowledeged that and the Janssen apearance in Tuesday's 2-1 loss was important to getting him back into the mix. Butterflies after nine days off?
“I wouldn't necessarily say butterflies, but I was anxious to get out there, anxious to put that little tough stretch behind me and start a nice scoreless streak or something like that," Janssen said. "But, again, this game can humble you quick and it can have some good times for you. You just have to ride both of them as even-keeled as you can."
Janssen's blown save against the O's on April 14 was on a back-to-back day, a situation over the course of his career with which he has sometimes struggled. With zero days rest as a Jay, the UCLA product has a 1-2 record with a 4.39 ERA in 29 games. It's not something that Janssen uses as an excuse. You pitch when you're called upon.
“Does it weigh on me? No," Janssen said. "Do I expect to perform better? Absolutely. But at the same time, sometimes if you do give up some runs, you might use not necessarily an extended period of time, but a little rejuvenation day or two to collect your thoughts and maybe your confidence or whatever, maybe isn't all that bad."
Janssen is looking forward to his next chance to pitch with a lead and late in a game. With his recent pedigree of success, that chance will come soon enough.