Jenks gets big outs to clean up bullpen mess
Roster moves coming as Putz, Thornton will find disabled list
CHICAGO -- The crowd of 26,263 began chanting in unison at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday night, three hours after Gavin Floyd's first pitch, as Bobby Jenks searched for the final strike against Luke Scott during the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Orioles.
Here's an interesting point, though, about those raucous cheers for the White Sox closer -- he wasn't even supposed to pitch.
Actually, nobody but Sergio Santos was scheduled to throw in the ninth inning against the last-place Orioles. Not with the White Sox entering the frame holding a five-run lead.
Santos couldn't retire any of the four batters he faced, starting with a leadoff walk to light-hitting Cesar Izturis. Suddenly, an easy road to move within 3 1/2 games of the Twins in the American League Central was filled with potholes.
J.J. Putz replaced Santos and threw exactly three pitches -- all well out of the strike zone -- to Ty Wigginton with runners on first and third and one out. He then winced in pain while stepping off the mound, exiting with more pain in his already troublesome right knee.
At that moment, the White Sox weren't left with many relief options.
Go to Tony Pena, who threw seven innings in a spot start Saturday night in Kansas City? Go to a now fully-healthy Jenks, who threw three scoreless innings against the Royals on Sunday?
Activate pitching coach Don Cooper or bullpen coach Juan Nieves, and see if they could record an out or two?
Jenks clearly was the best option, as he has been throughout his White Sox career.
"It's just one of those things, where even in a non-save situation, which is how that inning started out, I was doing my regular routine," Jenks said. "So, I was going out there and getting ready as if I was just in the bullpen.
"You have to use it as more of a mental approach than actual physical."
Jenks induced a Wigginton double play, which he started on a hard-hit grounder back to the mound, allowing one run to score but coming within one out of victory.
"Yeah, the glove was in the right place," Jenks said with a smile.
Luke Scott followed with a fly ball to center fielder Alex Rios, ending Jenks' night at a mere 11 pitches and producing his 24th save without even having time to properly warm up. And for the next week, Jenks will be counted on to carry even more of the load.
Both Matt Thornton and Putz will go on the disabled list prior to Wednesday's game, according to manager Ozzie Guillen, with two fresh arms called up in relief. Left-hander Erick Threets, currently on an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte, figures to be one of the chosen ones, while the White Sox have a few right-handed options from which to choose.
Carlos Torres, who made a spot start for the White Sox at Detroit on Aug. 3, would be the most logical choice, despite having worked primarily as a starter this season.
"Right now, all of our concern is with Thornton and J.J.," Jenks said. "It comes to a point where your body says, 'That's enough.' Unfortunately, we got to that point with both those guys. Whoever the two guys we are going to call up before September, they have some big shoes to fill."
"Thornton is down, Putz is down -- we've got to add two guys," Guillen said. "I need some guys that can go out there. I'm not saying we're in trouble, but I think everyone in the bullpen has to pick it up a notch for at least the next seven days, because we won't have Thornton. We'll figure it out."
Going without another reliever to start this homestand seemed like a curious move, considering Thornton said before the game he didn't expect his sore left elbow to be ready to return until next week's Cleveland series. Based on Guillen's comments after Tuesday's victory, that issue will be rectified.
As for Jenks, the chants of "Bobby, Bobby" from the White Sox fans didn't exactly make this save any more important than the first 169 he has recorded. It's all part of the job -- an under-appreciated job he has excelled at since taking over in 2005.
"They are probably going to boo me tomorrow," said Jenks, who has received jeers from these same fans during earlier blown save situations this season.
"He's one of those veteran guys I like to talk with and get stuff from," said White Sox rookie left-hander Chris Sale, who threw a scoreless eighth Tuesday and will be counted on as a late-inning contributor, despite pitching at the collegiate level just two months ago. "He's really good; I mean, really good. Any time he gets the ball, it's like, game over."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.