Jansen relishes overdue All-Star experience

Dodgers closer joins fellow first-timer Seager, injured veteran Kershaw

Jansen relishes overdue All-Star experience

SAN DIEGO -- Kenley Jansen's first All-Star Game will come under the guidance of Terry Collins, the Mets manager who will lead the National League team. Jansen volunteered just how bizarre that was during Monday's media availability, because Collins was the farm director and eventual director of player development when Jansen was a young, developing catcher in the Dodgers' organization.

"If you ask him a question right now," Jansen said, "he would say I would still be catching right now if he still was there."

Jansen was asked if that made Collins a bad farm director, because Jansen became a pitcher, turned himself into one of the game's most dominant closers and is now an All-Star.

"No, he was a great farm director," Jansen said. "He always was honest with me. It's a long story there, but T.C. is a great guy. And I'm even happier that my first All-Star is one when he's the manager."

The 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, staged at Petco Park, is set for tonight, with coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. PT on FOX.

Jansen's first trip to the Midsummer Classic comes at the age of 28, long after he was deserving. From 2012-15, the electric right-hander from Curacao posted a 2.33 ERA, averaging 66 appearances, 33 saves and 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings each season. But it took a 1.16 ERA and 27 first-half saves for Jansen to finally get invited.

He joined Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who won't play because of a slightly herniated disk in his back, and emerging shortstop Corey Seager, who was surprised to learn Jansen hadn't already been an All-Star.

"That's amazing, to think of the years he's had and never been," Seager said. "But that's how it goes. There's good players around the league. It's exciting for him. I'm really excited for him."

MLB Tonight: Jansen and Melancon

Seager -- eliminated in the first round of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, despite hitting 15 balls over the fence -- has produced 17 home runs through the Dodgers' first 91 games, trailing Hanley Ramirez by two for the single-season record among shortstops in franchise history.

Seager is on pace to be the first Dodgers rookie since Jackie Robinson to lead the team in hits, runs and homers. At 22 years and 69 days, he was the third-youngest Dodgers player to make the All-Star team, behind only Fernando Valenzuela (20 years, 81 days in 1981) and Ralph Branca (21 years, 183 days in 1947).

Then there's Kershaw, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star who could've started tonight's game had he not landed on the disabled list. Kershaw, who should return by the end of the month, leads the Majors in ERA (1.79), WHIP (0.73) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (16.11), as you might expect.

"He's, like, inhuman," Rangers ace and fellow lefty Cole Hamels said. "He's the definition of almost a robot."

Jansen is the first Dodgers reliever to be named an All-Star since Jonathan Broxton and Hung-Chih Kuo in 2010 and just the third All-Star from Curacao, along with Andruw Jones and Jair Jurrjens. He finished the first half with 14 consecutive scoreless outings, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out 26 batters in 14 1/3 innings.

In 3 1/2 months, he will be a free agent.

Players tend to put too much pressure on themselves during contract years, but Jansen is in the midst of his best season yet.

"I really don't care," Jansen said of pending free agency. "At the end of the day, the way I see it, I'm going to play somewhere next year, either with the Dodgers or not with the Dodgers. At the end of the day, if God helps me and I'm still healthy, I'm going to play this game that I love."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.