Jenks says he'll be a go for opener
MRI reveals mild strain in reliever's right calf
PHOENIX -- Let's say the White Sox have a one-run lead going into the ninth inning of their Opening Day contest in Chicago against Cleveland, and manager Ozzie Guillen or pitching coach Don Cooper calls to the bullpen for their closer.
The question is whether Bobby Jenks will be able to answer that call, as he continues to battle through right calf irritation. Jenks definitively answered that question on Sunday morning at the White Sox clubhouse in the Camelback Ranch complex.
"I'll be there," said Jenks, with a smile. "Without a doubt, I'll be ready when the season starts."
Jenks was scheduled to throw on Saturday afternoon against the Padres in Glendale, but was scratched when he irritated his calf. An MRI was done, but just, according to Jenks, to put everyone at ease and to be on the safe side
The MRI revealed a mild strain, with the problem apparently getting better.
"It kind of confirmed what we all thought," said Cooper.
"I feel good," Jenks said. "We got the MRI just to make sure there was no structural damage being caused, but it's really just a little sore, more like the irritation. That's part of the healing process, I guess. It has to hurt a little bit before it gets better."
Cooper has his closer on the schedule for Monday's game in Surprise against the Royals, but Jenks said on Sunday that they are playing it by "feel" right now. He could end up throwing in a Minor League game or opting for another extended bullpen, given that Jenks rated his previous two side sessions, which included rare work for him out of the wind-up, as major successes.
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"We'll see where we are at tomorrow," Jenks said. "The better it feels, the more I can do."
"[White Sox athletic trainer] Hermie [Schneider] said [Jenks] would be fine," said Cooper following the MRI. "We are hoping to resume what we've been doing."
The injury has limited Jenks to just two Cactus League appearances this spring, and the lingering doubt the injury has fostered could influence the White Sox roster. Thirteen pitchers, including eight relievers, would seem a little much, but 12 now seems to be a certainty, with Guillen wanting to be careful with starters such as Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia in the early going.
There's no doubt in Jenks' mind he'll be ready for that first game at U.S. Cellular Field on April 5. And Cooper believes there's still plenty of time for Jenks to go multiple innings in an outing and throw in back-to-back games to get himself properly set for regular-season action.
"Now, if he has a setback, depending on the severity of the setback, obviously, that's going to put some things in check," Cooper said. "Right now, I think we all feel, Bobby included, [that] he feels fine and he's ready to get to work and get the preparation done to be ready to go."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.