As Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Kenley Jansen strode off the mound on Wednesday night, he lifted his arms in a subtle celebration. This seemingly modest gesture followed a strikeout against Atlanta Braves’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud that marked the game’s conclusion. However, it was more than just another game for Jansen; he had just become the seventh pitcher in MLB history to record 400 career saves.
At 35 and with his third team in as many years, Jansen was overcome with joy at this momentous achievement, dubbing it “a moment I won’t ever forget.” In a post-game celebration, he received a bass guitar, and his team surprised him with a video tribute featuring his former teammates from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Achieving this milestone against the Braves held a particular significance for Jansen. He has fond memories of growing up as an ardent Atlanta fan, particularly admiring their star centerfielder, Andruw Jones, who also hails from Jansen’s homeland of Curaçao.
“Recording this milestone against the team I grew up watching and loving, and doing it in their stadium, it couldn’t be better,” Jansen shared with ESPN.
Over the past few years, Jansen has battled significant health issues. In 2018, a trip to Denver precipitated an atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), a condition he’d had surgery for in 2012. His performance faltered as he grappled with medication side effects throughout the season, and he underwent a lengthy heart procedure during the offseason. He returned to Spring Training 25 pounds lighter and has only experienced one subsequent flare-up.
Now, Jansen is not just celebrating his 400th save (just 22 shy of Billy Wagner’s sixth-place record), but he’s also reviving his pitching prowess. During his final showdown with d’Arnaud, Jansen’s fastball hit a speed of 98.7 mph, his fastest since August 27, 2016.