Bobby Jenks Deal Official, Bullpen Strong
By Brian Phair
The signing of right-handed reliever Bobby Jenks became official on Tuesday after he passed his physical on Monday. Usually the physical is just a small hoop players have to jump through, but in Jenks case, his weight is an issue for the Red Sox. Last season, Jenks was listed at 6’4″, 275 pounds, which may have been understated, but places him just slightly smaller than most NFL lineman. For someone of his size and stature, there is serious concern about the wear and tear of his body going forward and his ability to sustain success during a long and arduous season. That especially becomes a concern because Jenks has appeared in 52+ games 5 consecutive seasons, eclipsing the 60 mark in 2007 and 2008. The Sox would be happy keeping him in the 50 appearances range, especially if Dan Wheeler, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon remain healthy.
With the addition of Jenks and Wheeler, the Sox bullpen is beginning to come together and looks like a formidable power late in games. If we compare each player’s career numbers, the tandem of Jenks, Wheeler, Bard and Papelbon, they are staggering. Combined, the 4 relievers have a rough combined era of 3.02 with appearances in 1,314 games and 408 saves. They have allowed an average of 0.85 home runs per 9 innings, while striking out 3.15 batters per walk. What is there not to like about a group of guys that strikes out more than 1 batter per inning on average?
The only thing left for the Sox to do is find their late-inning lefty match-up guy. With 4 top late-inning righties, the Sox will be in trouble against the Yankees lefty-heavy lineup in the 7th and 8th inning without a reliable arm ready to step in like they had with Hideki Okajima in 2007 and for the most part, 2008. The Sox have a number of guys both on the roster and coming to Spring Training as non-roster invitees who have a chance to fill that role, but no real clear cut favorite at this point. Felix Doubront clearly has caught the attention of the Sox front office, but can he be a late-inning match-up guy or will he be relegated to a long reliever slot?
It will be interesting to see if Lenny DiNardo makes his return to the Sox big-league club as the lefty-specialist or if they go in another veteran direction with Rich Hill or Randy Williams. In my opinion, it is likely the Sox go in a younger direction and give the nod to Andrew Miller as long as he can prove his value this Spring, but that is a big ‘if’. The Sox see him as a project, so what better place to put him than with 3 veteran late-inning guys in the bullpen?
No matter what direction you look at this bullpen, I think the 2011 version has a ton more potential that the 2010 group of Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima. A better offense and a better bullpen…a recipe for success?