Jansen hopeful extra spring work will pay dividends

Most days, Jansen goes through meetings, works out, takes batting practice, works with his pitching staff and catches a few bullpen sessions. That’s all before lunch.

Add in a few interviews, full-team drills and all of the other responsibilities that pull players in every direction during Spring Training, and Jansen doesn’t have much time to catch his breath. It’s that same pace that helped Jansen avoid the distraction of trade rumors this past offseason when he and his wife, Alexis, had their first child, Miles. Jansen joked Tuesday that he was far more anxious about being a first-time dad than a first-time trade candidate.

The game of musical chairs stopped, though, with Jansen and Alejandro Kirk side by side and Gabriel Moreno traded to Arizona. It sets up Jansen for a big year in Toronto, particularly coming off his offensive breakout in 2022, but he still values Spring Training as much as any player in this camp.

“My biggest fear is not being prepared,” Jansen said. “Sometimes, I’m doing a bit of extra stuff, but I know that I’m preparing my mind and my body. Whether that’s extra catching work, more hitting or live at-bats. I’m giving myself more time for offense rather than just defense. It leads to longer days, but at least I know I’m prepared.”

This has been the case for years now with Jansen, who is somehow still just 27 years old. As a 2013 Draft pick, Jansen is one of the longest-serving members in the organization, and his maturity only adds to his older energy. That’s something that has long played in his favor as a catcher, making him one of the most trusted and beloved players on this roster throughout the organization.

Jansen’s camps have changed, of course. Coming up as a teenager and kid in his early 20’s, Jansen was still learning the ropes as a catcher.

Those days involved a heavier focus on his work behind the plate and in meetings, learning each pitcher on his staff. It’s not just about their pitches, but about what makes them tick. That relationship between pitcher and catcher is difficult to measure, but deeply important. Now, with more time to focus on his bat, the results are following.

“I’ve been preaching getting out of my own way mentally,” Jansen said. “That’s something that finally clicked with my preparation, but mostly just getting out of my own way and owning what I’m good at. Obviously, it’s about not being afraid to make some changes. I’m going to have to adapt and do some things, but I’m sticking with my strengths and going from there.”

His strengths? Pulling the baseball. Hard.

Jansen has leaned into this identity, and it’s a refreshing mindset that has freed him. Jansen knows that his best moments at the plate come when he pulls the ball for power — often when he gets himself into a fastball count — and he’s now actively hunting for those moments.

Jansen and Kirk are one of baseball’s best catching duos. Even with Moreno gone, it’s a tandem nearly every MLB club would be jealous of, with Kirk representing the contact machine and Jansen the big blows.

The Blue Jays haven’t seen Kirk yet this spring, though, making Jansen even more important. Kirk has been delayed arriving as he and his partner expect a child any day, but with him planning to play for Mexico at the upcoming World Baseball Classic in March, the timeline is starting get awfully tight.

“We’re getting to the point where it will be a little meticulous,” said manager John Schneider. “We had a plan in place for him for the WBC for a while, so we’ve got to feel it out when he gets here with how it looks and how he feels. He’s doing everything in his power right now to be at, or maybe a little bit below, where the guys are now who have been here.”

Schneider added that “conversations are ongoing” about Kirk and the WBC. Just how well Kirk has trained at home this offseason will surely factor in, but regardless, it’s Jansen who is in camp working with the club’s new arms every day, taking steps ahead when it comes to their preparation. The hope is that Kirk is able to arrive soon, but that remains a day-to-day situation.

Kirk was the All-Star in 2022, but with a healthy season and another long, busy spring of preparation, there’s no reason that can’t be Jansen this year.