A competitive Janssen expects success in Washington

A few weeks ago, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo left some questioning his decision to trade reliever Tyler Clippard to Oakland for infielder Yunel Escobar. It seemed as though Rizzo was prepared to go with his young arms in the bullpen, especially after trading Ross Detwiler to Texas and allowing Rafael Soriano to leave as a free agent.

But last Wednesday, Rizzo responded to the doubters by signing veteran late-inning reliever Casey Janssen. The deal, which guarantees Janssen $5 million (plus up to $500,000 annually for performance incentives), was made official Monday afternoon. He is expected to fill Clippard’s eighth inning set-up role while Drew Storen settles in as the full-time closer.

Janssen, 33, comes to Washington from Toronto, where he spent the first 10 years of his professional career after being drafted in the fourth round in 2004. From 2011-13, Janssen was 11-2 with a 2.46 ERA while appearing in 173 games with 58 saves and 170 strikeouts. However, 2014 was a bit of a roller coaster for the veteran right-hander. Before the All-Star break, Janssen was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 23 games with 14 saves. But during the break he experienced a rough bout with food poisoning while on a trip to the Dominican Republic and could never return to proper form. His ERA ballooned to 6.46 in the second half.

Janssen Follows Through Jays Sidebar.jpgYesterday, after the signing was formally announced, the classy Janssen took to his Twitter account (@CaseyJanssen) to show his appreciation to Toronto fans as well as greet Nats fans:

“I want to thank the city of Toronto, the fans, and most importantly my teammates for a great 8-plus years with you. I wish so badly that we could’ve brought a World Series home to you! Thanks for your unwavering support. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

“To the Washington Nationals and their fans, I’m truly blessed to be a part of your organization and such a talented team! Go NATS!!!”

Last night, Janssen appeared on “Prime Time Sports” on 590 The Fan in Toronto. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On his decision to sign with the Nationals: “When we got down to some of the more serious teams, ... the Washington Nationals were there from the beginning and they really showed a desire to sign me and they loved my ability and what they thought I could bring to the table for them.”

On if he knows what his role will be with the Nationals: “They said I’ll be pitching late in games. Right now, Drew (Storen) is their closer. And I told them that’s fine. I’m going to do everything I can to get Drew the ball with the lead, and if that happens nightly, I think we’re going to be in a good spot.”

On what was attractive about the Nationals: “I definitely took notice over the years of their success. I took notice of what they did in the offseason, signing Max (Scherzer) and the group that they had coming back. There was a need for me and there was a fit, and I’m really excited we’re able to make this happen. And hopefully we can take the step with them and win a World Series with them.”

On his struggles after the All-Star break last year: “The trip to the Domincan, I had the food poisoning. I wanted to continue pitching. I felt like I needed to be out there for the team. And no matter how healthy or unhealthy I was, I felt like I could still be able to get three outs. It didn’t go that way for me. And I think I was trying a little too hard at times and might have created a little bit of a bad habit. I think I finally turned the corner, but it was a little too late from a statistical standpoint. I think (Blue Jays pitching coach) Pete Walker did a great job telling me I was crouching down a little bit too much in my delivery and lost a downhill plane going toward the mound. When you’re struggling and you’ve got your confidence shook a little bit, some people get frustrated and some people try and do too much. And I think I was one of those ones that just wanted to get us to the playoffs with every pitch I threw instead of just trying to worry about the job at hand.”

If Janssen can return to form, this move appears to complete a pitching staff that could present nightmares for hitters in 2015. In addition, it also seems like Rizzo has added another quality individual to the Nats clubhouse.

You can listen to the full audio of the interview here.

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