BALTIMORE — Casey Janssen sat at his locker inside the Camden Yards visiting clubhouse Friday night, a plate of food in his hands, and stared off into nothingness for several minutes. He had made only a brief appearance in the game earlier, but the little dribbler of a single he allowed to Chris Parmalee leading off the bottom of the eighth ultimately led to the tying run scoring, which ultimately led to the Orioles beating the Nationals, 3-2.
Janssen was barely to blame for the loss — he only faced two batters and allowed only the one weak base hit — but what stung most after the game was the feeling the veteran reliever had that he wasn’t contributing to the Nats as much as he or the club hoped.
So when another opportunity came 24 hours later, this time resulting in three key outs recorded to help the Nationals to a 7-4 victory, Janssen again had an emotional response. This time, he was excitedly pumping his fist after striking out both Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce.
“It has to do with me just not really contributing yet,” Janssen said later, pausing as he considered his words. “I feel like there is a place for me here, and I’ve got to find my way. And, I haven’t yet. It was a big spot. It was a spot where I have to build that trust. I have to build the trust of my teammates, the staff, everybody. It was an opportunity for me to show them what I can do.”
Janssen doesn’t feel like he really has shown the Nationals that yet, and it clearly bothers him. Signed over the winter to a $3.5 million contract, the 33-year-old was being counted on to serve as the club’s primary setup man, filling the critical role that opened up with Tyler Clippard was traded to Oakland.
But then Janssen’s shoulder started barking in spring training and he wound up missing the season’s first two months. And since debuting, he has been an inconsistent member of the bullpen, delivering on occasion but not yet establishing himself as manager Matt Williams’ go-to guy for the eighth inning.
This is something of an unfamiliar position for Janssen, who for the previous three years had served as the Blue Jays’ closer, posting 81 saves with a 2.94 ERA.
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He’s not bitter about that, though. He knows, as an unconventional, non-flamethrower, he’ll always need to prove himself year after year.
He just wants the Nationals to know he can be counted on and that talk of the club seeking another late-inning relief option may be premature.
“I want to show them that they don’t need to look any more, but that comes with success,” Janssen said. “I just have to continue to have innings like that and continue to show them that this is the guy that they brought in and you can trust me, it’s going to be all right.”