The Heartbeat of the Dodgers

Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports | A.P.

by: Rich Daniels

For the third time in his career, Dodger closer Kenley Jansen has been sidelined with a heart issue.

The 30-year-old was reported to have not felt right at the team's hotel in Denver on Thursday and was accompanied to a local hospital by the team trainer in order to undergo tests which later found that he once again had an irregular heartbeat.

The ailment will reportedly sideline Jansen for about a month.

Jansen experienced the same symptoms in 2011 and it sent him to the disabled list. A similar situation occurred in 2012 prompting a medical procedure shortly after that season which re-established a normal rhythm for Jansen's heart.

Thursday's occurrence did not result in a hospital stay but the Dodgers understandably played it safe and sent the big closer back to Los Angeles for further testing.

It was determined that time off would be the best precaution.

It would be easy to identify Jansen as the true heartbeat of the Dodgers due to the critical nature of his role.

The other 24 men on the roster could do their jobs and, when called upon, if Jansen is not the dominating performer he has been, the team suffers greatly. With the National League West division race so tight heading into the stretch run and the Dodgers absolutely all-in for this year's race, Jansen's well-being is highly critical.

There are big shoes to fill should Jansen be out for an extended period. 

So far the 6'5" fireballer is tied for the National League lead with 32 saves. A 2.15 ERA, 0.902 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts in 54.1 innings keep the Dodger closer in an elite class.

The Dodgers don't have a readily available means to replace him.

Scott Alexander was called upon to close in Jansen's absence but has only six career major league saves and operated as a closer only once in the minors producing 14 saves for the Royals' organization at Triple-A Omaha.

Veteran John Axford was recently acquired from the Blue Jays but hasn't served as a regular closer since 2015.

Set-up man Dylan Floro is having a strong season but has never been a closer at any professional level. The rest of the Dodger bullpen has also seldom been called upon to protect a lead in the ninth inning and the likelihood of getting a closer through waivers in order to make a trade is thin.

From a human standpoint, we can all hope this represents nothing serious for Jansen. 

Indeed, where this incident came about may be a clue as the heart-related incident Jansen suffered in 2012 was also in Denver. Altitude can easily be a complication of cardiac conditions due to lower oxygen content in the thinner air.

So now everyone sits and waits to find out if more is in store for Jansen and the Dodgers. It reminds us that pennant races and, more importantly, lives are just a heartbeat away from drastic changes.

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