Kenley Jansen's complaints about baseballs seem like an excuse after recent outings

Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Guardians v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Former All-Star closer Kenley Jansen hasn't looked like himself in his recent outings with the Boston Red Sox.

The pitcher dealt with injuries for much of spring training and went into the season relatively unprepared, but Jansen's lack of command has continued weeks into the campaign. A closer of his caliber should require a few appearances to hit his stride again, but that hasn't been the case for the 36-year-old. Nonetheless, Alex Cora continues to use him in high-stakes situations.

Jansen has, for the most part, taken accountability for his appearances, but he's made some statements that other pitchers have echoed. After the Red Sox's 5-4 win against the Angels on April 14, the righty said the game balls have been giving him some issues.

"I got to get better, but also if you're playing in the cold weather, windy, and you get pearls balls out there that's not rubbed well, I don't know where the ball's going," Jansen told reporters.

He also said that the bullpen balls are easier to grip than most of the game balls. Jansen has admitted to throwing away multiple game balls before he was given one that he felt was rubbed up properly.

Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen has voiced issues with game balls after recent struggles

"It's been an issue the whole year," he said. "I've been talking to a lot of my teammates, and they feel the same way. First pitch, get out of my hand, I don't know where it's going. Second pitch, the same thing. Then, I tried to throw a ball down the middle, just keep going down. It's tough trying to make an adjustment and also you have the clock ticking."

Jansen cited the pitch clock as adding pressure to the situation which makes sense — the veteran is one of the slowest movers in MLB and he takes quite a while to come set before he pitches.

But Jansen's velocity has started to tick down in recent years, and it's especially noticeable this season. In his outing against the Angels, before he made the statements about the poor quality of game balls, Jansen's velocity averaged 92-93 MPH, and he didn't reach 95, his peak for the night, until the last of the six batters he faced.

Jansen is a 15-year MLB veteran and his skill set may no longer be suited to a closing role. Regardless of whether Jansen's statements about the quality of the game balls are true, he moves quite slowly and he isn't often successful with runners on base, which has been especially costly for the Red Sox under MLB's new stealing rules and with larger bases. The fact of the matter is that he needs to adapt.

The veteran blew his first save of the 2024 season against the Guardians on April 16 and he's walked eight batters in his seven outings this season. It may be time to use Jansen in an earlier relief role because he doesn't seem to be handling late-game appearances like he used to.

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