For the 1st 6 years of his career, Bobby Jenks put on a Chicago White Sox uniform every day and showed up at the ballpark ready to pitch. He and his wife planted roots in the North-side of Chicago and was made to feel at home, until the end of the 2010 season. Jenks was non-tendered by the Sox, but that wasn’t what upset the hefty closer, it was a issue regarding his jersey number that began his distaste. After the White Sox signed Adam Dunn, he was informed that the slugger was taking #45, Jenks’ number since arriving on the scene in 2005. He felt slighted and knew immediately that he was not a priority to return to Chicago. As with any disagreement, the White Sox told the story in a different light, claiming that because Dunn and Jenks share an agent, it would be possible for Dunn to talk about taking the #45 only if Jenks signed elsewhere. As typically happens in these scenarios, Jenks decided then to air his grievances and went on to then rip his former manager Ozzie Guillen. (more after the jump)
I’ll always respect [Guillen] as a person and give him credit that’s due. But I want to play for a manager who trusts his relievers, regardless of what’s going on. …With the way Ozzie was talking this winter and the way he treated me, I don’t want to fight with the guy. How many times did he question my ability, and then saying how he would love to have me back, but I would have to come to Spring Training and fight for the closer’s role like anyone else? – Bobby Jenks on Ozzie Guillen
By tearing down Guillen, Jenks built-up and praised Terry Francona, his new manager. After mentioning how happy he was to not return to the negativity with Guillen in Chicago, Jenks said, “I’m looking forward to playing for a manager who knows how to run a bullpen.” Although it isn’t a pretty situation when a player feels slighted and then moves on to another team, it shows the Red Sox that he is ready to play hard and fill his role in Boston, in spite of what happened. After being a closer for an extended period of time, it isn’t always the case that a pitcher is willing to accept a set-up role. Jenks may have an opportunity to save a few games, but everyone has been explicitly told (as if it was needed) that Jonathan Papelbon is the guy to close out games. How long will that last? Only time will tell.
The White Sox loss is a Red Sox gain in this scenario, because throughout his career, Jenks has been a solid closer with an impressive 173 saves in 5 and a half seasons in Chicago. He is a monster of a human being, 6’4″ tall and weighing in at a generous 275, and uses intimidation to help him succeed late in games. Normally this type of chatter would be a distraction, but in this case, I think it is a motivator for Jenks to prove his worth in Boston and makes for a great strong end of the bullpen trio of Daniel Bard, Jenks and Papelbon. Also, having a guy with post-season experience will help if and when the Red Sox are fortunate enough to play in baseball’s 2nd season.
Jenks has said his peace and I’m sure Guillen will respond as always, but I hope it ends there. Once pitchers and catchers report in Spring Training, it’s all about the focus with no distractions. Circle May 30th on your calendars, because the White Sox are coming to Boston with Jenks ready for revenge.