Red Sox reliever Jenks reflects on Chicago stint
White Sox didn't imply disrespect while moving in new direction
CHICAGO -- When the White Sox need to protect a ninth-inning lead during the 2011 season, the sounds of POD's "Boom" will not be heard at U.S. Cellular Field. Bobby Jenks will not come trotting in from the bullpen.
Jenks, the team's exceptional closer since September 2005, was non-tendered by the White Sox on Dec. 2 and went on to sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the Red Sox to be the setup man for Jonathan Papelbon.
But the manner in which Jenks' Chicago tenure came to an end leaves some room for interpretation. On one side, the 29-year-old expressed disappointment during a conversation with MLB.com after he officially moved on to Boston and seemed to indicate a level of disrespect shown by the White Sox.
That feeling might be more Jenks' perception than the White Sox intention. In the final analysis, the two-time All-Star made staying in Chicago his target -- and the team went in another direction.
"It was my first hope, and it hurt," Jenks said. "During my first conversation with my wife after the season, she looked me in the eyes and said that she would go anywhere with me. I said that I wanted to go back to Chicago.
"I don't want to sit here and say I'm a 15-year veteran, but I felt I was a significant part of this organization and this team. With the moves that happened and the way things rolled out, it made more sense by their actions to look elsewhere."
Jenks does not take umbrage with the White Sox non-tender. He understands the business, and with his injury-plagued and somewhat-ineffective 2010 performance, the White Sox could not commit to a raise through arbitration from the $7.5 million Jenks previously earned.
Confusion began after free-agent slugger Adam Dunn and the White Sox agreed upon a four-year, $56 million deal. Dunn had worn jersey No. 44 in the past, but that number belongs to starting pitcher Jake Peavy.
According to Jenks, the White Sox informed his group how Dunn instead would be wearing No. 45 -- Jenks' number. That decision, Jenks claims, pretty much spoke volumes about the White Sox desire to keep him.
"Once they signed Adam Dunn and gave him my number, I knew it was official," Jenks said. "With that move right there, even though they talked to me after [Paul] Konerko and Dunn signed, it was almost like an afterthought, I felt. They never made it seem like they wanted to bring me back."
A White Sox source disagreed with Jenks' assessment of the jersey dilemma. Jenks and Dunn share an agent, and the team expressed how 45 could be an option for Dunn only if the White Sox lost Jenks.
If it were close, the White Sox would not have given out No. 45 until Jenks had decided upon another team. The announcement of Dunn actually picking No. 32 didn't come until Dec. 15, after the White Sox reached an agreement with reliever Jesse Crain and knew Jenks would be pitching elsewhere.
There were no offseason talks between the two sides until the White Sox had both Dunn and Konerko under contract. Then again, the White Sox didn't really address the bullpen until the potent middle of the lineup was secured.
According to Jenks, the White Sox offered two years at $10 million after the Winter Meetings and the team then asked for an answer on the morning before the initial agreement was reached with Crain. The White Sox source said the organization spoke with Jenks' agent before Crain was signed, but no offer was made. It simply was a conversation about expectations.
Other teams besides Boston had interest. Jenks listed those opportunities from closing for Tampa Bay to starting -- yes, starting -- for the Texas Rangers. Jenks was a starter for five Minor League seasons with the Angels before being converted to the bullpen when joining the White Sox.
"Starting has always been in the back of my mind," said Jenks, who added how he tossed around the idea with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper during his final month of 2010 inactivity due to ulnar neuritis.
The new contract must for Jenks was two years, and he eventually picked Boston because it was a place where he really wanted to play. Jenks doesn't mind setting up because he believes manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein have the utmost confidence in him, and Jenks won't be moved out of this new role, even with a rough appearance or two.
That confidence was no longer present from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, in Jenks' estimation. Guillen made it clear at the Winter Meetings how if Jenks returned to the White Sox, the man sitting second on the franchise saves list (173) would have to compete with Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and Sergio Santos for the closer's job.
Hearing those words from Guillen, after temporarily losing his job last season upon blowing a couple of second-half saves in Minnesota and Seattle, certainly influenced Jenks' employment thoughts.
"I'll always respect [Guillen] as a person and give him credit that's due," Jenks said. "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?
"Why would I come back to that negativity?" Jenks said. "I'm looking forward to playing for a manager who knows how to run a bullpen."
A change in scenery was probably necessary for Jenks and a change of closers was needed for Guillen, who helped Jenks grow into a late-inning force before their work relationship took a direct hit. It simply was hard for Jenks to imagine working somewhere else.
"I'm mad, but I'm not mad," Jenks said. "I don't know what to feel about it. I thought with the way I was part of the city and not just part of the team, they would make more of an effort to get me back. I wanted to be part of the White Sox a lot longer."