Jenks closes out Twins, addresses doubters
Closer wants early season critics to 'chill out'
MINNEAPOLIS -- There is no closer controversy for the 2010 White Sox.
In fact, the closer concept based on the ninth-inning matchups, as mentioned by manager Ozzie Guillen prior to Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Twins at Target Field, also seems to have been abandoned. With the White Sox protecting a three-run lead in the ninth, Guillen summoned Bobby Jenks to get the final three outs and record his sixth save.
From the point of view of the defiant Jenks, there was never a question he should be out there.
"That's the thing I don't understand," said Jenks, after pitching a scoreless inning and giving up one hit. "All of this going on, and it was just one game.
"Everyone is hitting the panic button in April, so chill out. I don't want to say everything I want to say. But it was one bad game. In the game before, I gave up a solo home run when the wind was blowing out at 20 mph. What are you going to do?
"I don't want to comment too much because I don't want to start anything," Jenks said. "But it was one game, and things happen."
That game being referred to by Jenks came Sunday, at the end of a seven-game homestand, when he gave up four runs without retiring any of the four Toronto hitters he faced and lost a 7-5 lead in the process.
Jenks has been one of the most reliable closers in the game since taking over the job late in the 2005 White Sox World Series championship campaign. But the hard-throwing right-hander hasn't been quite as sharp this season, allowing at least one baserunner in 12 of his 14 appearances.
Guillen hinted at a closer change after Sunday's loss, saying he would talk to pitching coach Don Cooper about the situation. On Tuesday, Guillen made clear how Jenks could pitch in the ninth inning later that same night if right-handed hitters such as the Twins' Delmon Young or Michael Cuddyer were on the docket. If it was a plethora of lefties, then Matt Thornton, who has struck out eight of the last 13 hitters he has faced, figured to get the call.
"I talked to Coop about it," Guillen said. "Everyone should be ready mentally to pitch from the seventh up. It's not a punishment. It's not about losing his job. It's just about getting him back to what he was. He's a little off right now. As soon as he's back to what he was, he has his job back."
Actually, Jenks didn't have to wait that long to return. Guillen did make one trip to the mound after Jenks gave up a pinch-hit double to Jim Thome, reminding Jenks that getting behind hitters, as he did with the first two faced, only increases the chances of getting to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau again. Jenks settled down and struck out Nick Punto, before retiring Denard Span on a grounder to first baseman Paul Konerko.
For the White Sox to perform at their best, Jenks needs to be the team's effective closer. Guillen understands that fact and showed confidence in his last line of pitching defense on Tuesday.
"When he throws strikes, he's as good as anyone," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski of Jenks. "All he needs is to get his location and confidence back, and hopefully, tonight is the start of it."
"I just want him to throw the ball and throw strikes, and whatever happens, it's my fault," Guillen said. "I put him here. I have confidence in you and show you how much I have."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.