Jenks ready for some game action
White Sox closer had gone a week without an appearance
BALTIMORE -- It was not a surprise to see White Sox closer Bobby Jenks facing the Orioles in Thursday's finale of a three-game series at Camden Yards -- despite Chicago trailing in the eighth inning.
Jenks hadn't pitched since last Thursday at Tampa Bay, when he picked up his third save in as many opportunities. A week is a long time for a closer to go without working, much less getting a save chance, and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is aware he needs to keep Jenks' arm fresh.
"I'm not worried about Bobby," Guillen said before Thursday's contest. "When we use him, sometimes we overuse him in back-to-back-to-back games. He's a strong kid. ... But we need to get him an inning."
Because the White Sox haven't had many precarious leads to protect of late, Guillen has had to be creative in the way he uses the back end of his bullpen. Because relievers aren't being slotted in their normal roles every night, they get work when they can. For instance, Guillen raised eyebrows Wednesday night when he had Octavio Dotel, who has made two appearances covering 1 1/3 innings on the current 11-day road trip, warming in the bullpen in the fourth inning while starter John Danks was mowing down Orioles hitters.
"[Dotel] was just getting some work in," Guillen explained.
Jenks expected the same treatment on Thursday night, even pitching if a save situation didn't exist. It's an unusual role for a closer to adjust to, and the mental preparation for the job sometimes conflicts with the less-than-pressurized situations when a closer is working in a non-save situation.
How does Jenks, who is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA and has worked only five innings in Chicago's 15 games this season, adapt mentally in that instance?
"I just think, like every night, that I'm going to be in there every day. I've got to be ready -- that's the job," Jenks said. "You keep the mind-set the same."
In a perfect world, Jenks pitches an inning with the Sox ahead by three or fewer runs. Maybe he comes in to face a hitter or two with a one- or two-run lead. He's not used to pitching when the game isn't on the line.
"Then, [in that scenario] you go out there and you get the work in," Jenks said. "It's one of those things that comes with the territory. You're the closer, so you do whatever it takes to get yourself ready for every day -- just part of the job."
Still, a week is a long time to go without pitching, and Jenks wants to stay sharp for when he's needed in a crucial situation.
"The more you do it, the better you mentally get at it. You learn to focus on those non-save situations," he said. "A week [off] is long, though."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.