The virus spread swiftly, infiltrating Kenley Jansen’s life with frightening speed.
One night last month, the Dodgers closer woke at 4 a.m. to find his young son burning up with fever. Soon after, Jansen and his wife, Gianni, learned their boy had the new coronavirus. And within a matter of days, Jansen and the rest of his family tested positive as well.
Everyone in the household has recovered, Jansen said during a video conference Sunday, revealing his diagnosis publicly for the first time after being cleared to report to the team’s training camp at Dodger Stadium. But the experience was eye-opening, especially for a player with three young children and a pre-existing heart condition.
“It is real,” Jansen said of the new coronavirus after experiencing several symptoms during the three-week ordeal. “Everyone in the world, take it serious. Wear your mask at all times, if you can. Because, trust me, it happens so fast. Once my son got it, I’ve seen how fast it can spread. We tried to do everything, but we all got it in the house.”
Jansen said he never contemplated opting out of the season and, despite missing almost two weeks of training camp, expects to be ready for the season opener on July 23. He already threw a bullpen session Friday.
“He looks like he is in good shape,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s been active. I know he’s thrilled to death to be back with his teammates. And I think it was great for him to come out and be honest.”
As the first Dodger to publicly share a coronavirus diagnosis — several others either arrived late or are absent for reasons the team is not allowed to disclose — Jansen took time Sunday to emphasize the seriousness of the virus, which he said seemingly came out of nowhere as he was preparing for the pandemic-shortened season at home in Los Angeles.
“It’s hard to track,” he said. “We tried to think about it, but at the same time, it happens. I didn’t want to focus too much looking back [on] how it happens. All you can do is, how can you fight? That’s what we did, just kept looking forward and tried to overcome the virus.”
The 32-year-old right-hander described himself as a “moderate-risk” COVID-19 patient because of an irregular heart condition that has required two corrective surgeries during his career. The second took place in November 2018, three months after Jansen suffered an atrial fibrillation episode during a trip in Denver.
More concerning to Jansen, however, was the health of his family, especially after his middle son, 4-year-old Kaden, was the first in the household to test positive.
“When my son had it, it was more disappointment of, ‘Why does my son have it? Why not me?’” said Jansen, who initially tested negative before taking a follow-up test a few days later that came back positive. “You just don’t want that to be on your kids. Next thing we know, we all got it.”
Jansen laid low as he recovered, drinking Gatorade and hot water with lemon and ginger while nursing himself back to health.
“It was definitely scary,” he said, adding: “I did everything I could do to be sure I bounced back fast.”
The three-time All-Star still is expected to be the Dodgers' closer, despite last season recording a career-worst 3.71 ERA and converting only 33 of 41 save opportunities.
Roberts, who throughout the preseason has maintained confidence in the two-time National League reliever of the year, is planning to give Jansen four appearances in intrasquad simulation games to prepare for opening day.
“I love this game,” Jansen said. “I want to do it for the fans. We’re all going through a tough time right now in the world together. I think this is a good thing for not only the Dodgers fans but all baseball fans around the world to have something to watch on TV.”