Why Braves closer Kenley Jansen’s 369th career save meant so much to him

Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen delivers to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the ninth inning at Truist Park Friday, June 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Braves won 4-2. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen delivers to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the ninth inning at Truist Park Friday, June 10, 2022, in Atlanta. Braves won 4-2. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

On Thursday afternoon, Braves reliever Kenley Jansen tweeted a picture of two baseballs in their respective display cases. The one on the left was the ball from his 368th career save which tied Jonathan Papelbon for 10th on the all-time saves leaderboard. The ball on the right was from his 369th save, which gave Jansen sole possession of that spot.

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For Jansen, this accomplishment symbolized more than just a continued climb up the ladder of elite closers in the game’s history.

“When I got to my apartment yesterday, you kind of have that ‘wow’ feeling,” Jansen said, “because I’m a kid from Curaçao, such a small island.”

He grew up a Braves fan whose favorite player was Fred McGriff. Soon enough, Andruw Jones, a fellow Curaçao native, became his idol. Jones’ emergence gave Jansen a vision of a possible path.

“That gives you hope that we could be there, too,” Jansen said. “Next thing you know, it happened so fast that now here I am, and I could say I’m top 10 all-time in saves.”

Now, Jansen perhaps is the game’s most accomplished active closer. He has a 2.41 ERA over his career. He has the second-most saves of any active player, behind Craig Kimbrel. While playing for the Dodgers from 2010-21, he racked up 350 saves to become the franchise’s all-time saves leader.

He ranks third in baseball this season with 19 saves, two off the MLB lead. He has converted all seven save opportunities in June.

Just as Jones inspired Jansen, Jansen hopes to show other Curaçao kids that his career is possible.

“To bring that belief and hope for those kids from Curaçao,” he said. “The younger generation is coming up. There is hope. If you want to accomplish a dream of (playing) baseball, just work hard for it and never give up. Maybe it’s for you, maybe it’s not. But at least they believe in it.”

Jansen’s former team is in town. He called Friday “just another day” but said his former teammates are his brothers. This series should continue an eventful week for Jansen, who just faced former Dodgers teammate Joc Pederson. (Pederson homered off Jansen in Thursday’s series finale.)

“The emotions are higher facing guys like Joc, and now when I’m facing my former teammates,” Jansen said. “It’s good. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully can have a good time, give the fans what they want and show them a great game.”

Jansen is still pitching at a high level. In the last couple of years, he has learned more about his mind and how to use it to his advantage instead of allowing it to be a detriment. He might be 34 years old, but he is still one of the sport’s top closers.

“Man, it’s something else,” manager Brian Snitker said. “What a career that guy’s had and he keeps adding onto it. That’s very special. Very special. I’m privileged and blessed to be able to get to manage him.”

Thursday provided the stage for Jansen’s latest achievement.

“Great accomplishment, but the ultimate goal is to win a championship and bring another championship back here to Atlanta,” Jansen said. “That’s what I’m going to compete for. All the years that I’m going to play, it’s to play for a title. I’m not going to give up on that, and hopefully that can come through and we can win it again.”

A FaceTime call from Freeman

When Ozzie Albies fractured his foot on a Monday in Washington, he received a FaceTime call that night.

The call came from Freddie Freeman, the Braves icon who is now the Dodgers’ first baseman. In this moment, Freeman displayed the leadership for which he was known.

“We just talked, and I told him I care about him and love him and I hope he gets healthy as fast as he can,” Freeman said.

Freeman on Friday made his return to Atlanta, this time as a member of a National League foe.

Injury updates

Tyler Matzek (left shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session Saturday, according to Snitker. Matzek has been working his way through a throwing progression and is said to feel good.

Eddie Rosario (laser eye procedure) has been hitting outside with the Braves and in the batting cage. Snitker said the outfielder is “ramping up things and doing more baseball stuff.”

The thought has been that Matzek and Rosario could begin rehab assignments near the end of the month.