LOS ANGELES — Kenley Jansen entered Tuesday’s ninth inning to close out a game from Dodger Stadium as a member of the Atlanta Braves. His last out was Freddie Freeman, now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jansen couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of it.
“That’s weird as hell,” Jansen said after the Braves’ 3-1 victory, which came after his 186th career regular-season save from Dodger Stadium. “I’ve faced that guy so many times in all those Braves series. Now it’s vice versa. Yeah, it’s crazy, man. It’s crazy how the game is now. But it’s fun.”
Jansen had his sights set on returning to the Dodgers this offseason, just like Freeman expected to return to the Braves, but everything changed shortly after the lockout was lifted around the middle of March.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos reportedly turned down an ultimatum from Freeman’s representation and instead traded for Matt Olson, prompting the Dodgers to sign Freeman to a six-year, $162 million contract on March 16. The deal put the Dodgers on track to exceed the fourth tier of the luxury tax threshold, prompting the need to shed salary in order to fit Jansen into the budget. But the Braves gave Jansen a one-year, $16 million offer and needed a quick answer, prompting Jansen to spurn the Dodgers to join the team he grew up rooting for in Curacao on March 18.
A segment of a sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd initially greeted Jansen with boos as he entered from the right-field bullpen on Tuesday, but most of those who remained in attendance soon stood and clapped. The reaction was basically mixed, somewhat subdued, with Jansen’s trademark entrance song, “California Love,” no longer blaring from the speakers.
“It’s all about business now,” Jansen said. “I’m just happy to help my team win. That’s what I did. It’s OK. No hard feelings. I will love them. They will be in my heart forever.”
Jansen was celebrated with a video tribute minutes before Monday’s first pitch, and he then strolled onto the field with his wife and two of his kids to receive mementos from his first career save from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, third baseman Justin Turner and president of baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.
The 34-year-old right-hander admitted that his adrenaline would be abnormally high for his first game against his longtime teammates, but he was able to keep emotions in check when he ultimately toed the rubber on Tuesday, retiring Will Smith, Mookie Betts and Freeman in order.
Jansen has been working on maintaining his focus.
“I’m just locked in — right here, right now,” he said. “It helps me. Just be in the moment. Be in the moment, be in the moment. Even this moment today was a moment with full emotions, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being out there.”