- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2015

VIERA, Fla. — Last year, Casey Janssen spent the all-star break in the Dominican Republic with his wife, Lauren. They didn’t go far from the beaten path, or eat anything too unusual. But somewhere along the way, Janssen had something his stomach didn’t like.

“I lost like nine pounds — in a night,” he said Thursday. “Yeah. It wasn’t too much fun.”

The food poisoning ravaged Janssen’s body, sapping him of strength, and its effects lingered longer than anyone expected. The right-handed reliever continued to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays, but his numbers ballooned. He has never used the illness as an excuse for poor performance. He does, however, admit that it happened.

“It was just one of those things,” Janssen said. “We were in a race and I just wanted to pitch. I thought and I still believe that I could’ve gotten three outs regardless of how I felt, and it didn’t work that way. But it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Just a lack of results.”

Janssen arrived at Space Coast Stadium on Thursday healthy and excited to begin a new season with a new team. The 33-year-old California native agreed to a contract with the Nationals late last month and is expected to fill the role of departed setup man Tyler Clippard, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics earlier in the offseason.

Janssen said he has not been told specifically what his role will be in Washington’s bullpen.

“I definitely looked at Tyler’s number and they’re pretty impressive. So big shoes to fill if that were the case,” Janssen said. “They said I’m going to pitch late. I’m going to help fill the seventh, eighth or potentially the ninth inning if Drew needs a night off or something like that.”

Few Nationals fans knew much about Janssen before he signed with the Nationals because he spent the first eight seasons of his career in the American League. That same unfamiliarity is true for players, as well. Janssen said it will be a challenge facing hitters he has not frequently seen, but also an advantage, because they haven’t seen him, either.

Janssen is not a two-pitch flame-thrower. He said he has four or five pitches, including a slow curveball and a cutter, which is his go-to pitch. He described himself as “a command guy.”

“I’m just trying to keep you off-balance, keep you off the barrel of the bat,” Janssen said. “I don’t really care how I get you out. I just want to get you out. There’s not really a method to my madness. Just more reading swings, reading counts and trying to figure out where the least amount of damage that they can do to me is possible and I’m going to try to attack that spot.”

Historically speaking, Janssen has been slightly better on the road in his career than at home. He attributed part of that to the nature of the Rogers Centre, which has a fast turf infield and retractable roof. The ball, Janssen said, tends to carry there. It’s a hitter’s park.

But Janssen, for what it’s worth, also said he truly enjoys pitching on the road.

“I love when everybody’s against you and you’re just the lone guy out there trying to shut everybody up,” he said. “I just love the pressure of pitching on the road and trying to accomplish that.”

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