Kenley Jansen had just finished breakfast in Denver last Thursday when his heart started beating erratically and wildly. He waited a few minutes to see if the episode would pass. When it did not, he summoned the Dodgers’ training staff.
He said he was not scared, even as an ambulance rushed him to a hospital. This was not the first episode of atrial fibrillation for Jansen, and he knew exactly what the doctors would do before they did it.
“They shocked my heart right back to normal,” he said.
He said he felt better immediately. The Dodgers felt better Monday upon seeing their closer back in the clubhouse, full of his usual smiles and laughter.
If he has no side effects from the blood thinners he has been prescribed, Jansen said, he is “confident” he can return well short of the widely speculated absence of a month or more.
“It’s not going to be four weeks,” he said. “It’s not going to be six weeks.”
This was not the first time Jansen’s heart had started racing in the mile-high altitude of Denver, but he said the Dodgers should not try to avoid future episodes by banning him from Colorado.
“I’m going back to Denver, man,” he said. “Can’t be scared of life.”
While altitude can trigger atrial fibrillation, Jansen said doctors told him that dehydration could too. Jansen said he had diarrhea in Oakland on Wednesday and suspected his body might have been excessively depleted of minerals and fluids.
“I probably had some angry cells by my heart,” he said.
There is a “very high percentage” he will need a second ablation surgery this winter, he said, repeating the one he had six years ago. That procedure requires an estimated recovery time of three months, he said.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that he was “encouraged” that Jansen could return sooner than expected. Jansen threw a bullpen session Monday and is scheduled for two more this week. He also plans to lift weights and run this week, and to travel with the team to Seattle.
“If it were up to Kenley, he would pitch tonight,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers will make no decisions on Jansen’s return until the closer visits a cardiologist Aug. 20. However, Roberts said he was upbeat upon seeing Jansen on Monday, for the first time since he suffered the episode.
“To hear it in his voice, and to look in his eyes, I saw the confidence,” Roberts said.
In Jansen’s absence, the Dodgers’ relievers lost three of the four games in Denver and blew a lead in the other game. The Dodgers entered play Monday with 21 blown saves, tied for third-most in the major leagues.
Jansen said he felt a sense of responsibility for the weekend bullpen fiasco, given his absence. However, he said, all the relievers need to pitch better.
“I believe in every single one of these guys in the bullpen,” he said. “At some point, we need to step up. It’s not about me being out.
“At some point, if you want to be in the playoffs, everybody needs to step up and do the job, so we can go far in the playoffs.”
On Monday, the Dodgers activated reliever Erik Goeddel and optioned reliever Pat Venditte to triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers thus optioned Venditte for the seventh time this season, and the second time in five days.
The Dodgers also need to make roster moves to accommodate the activation of Alex Wood, the scheduled Tuesday starter, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the scheduled Wednesday starter. The Dodgers have moved starters Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen.