Bobby Jenks exited Thursday night’s game with the Twins with back spasms after facing three batters in the top of the ninth inning. Jenks retired Alexi Casilla on a pop up, but then gave up a single to Denard Span and walked Orlando Hudson on four pitches.
After walking Hudson, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen could be seen asking Jenks from the dugout if he was ok. Guillen and White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider came to the mound and Jenks soon departed. The right-hander was inactive this past weekend in Baltimore due to back soreness but pitched a scoreless inning in Tuesday’s loss.
Ken Williams has noticed a very specific trend taking place in regard to trade possibilities involving players on 40-man rosters who need to clear waivers between now and the end of August.
“There is a lot of claiming going on,” a smiling Williams told MLB.com prior to Thursday’s series finale with the Twins, before exiting the White Sox dugout.
A player on waivers can be claimed by any team, and if multiple teams put in a claim, the team with the worst record would have the player offered.
The original team then has 48 hours to work out a trade with the claiming team or remove the player from waivers. A player can be pulled back just once, but if he clears waivers either the first or second time through, a team can attempt to trade him to any team.
Ozzie Guillen’s crew is a victim of its own success, meaning any team in the American League but the Rangers, Yankees, Rays and Red Sox, who have better records entering Thursday, can block a potential waiver wire deal with their claims. A National League player would have to make it through every NL squad and the AL teams.
Those factors lead Williams to believe the roster he has in place now is the roster that will be in place as of Sept. 1.
“I’m just assuming everyone is going to get claimed,” Williams said. “That’s how I go about it.”
And having the ultimate confidence in the White Sox actually becomes a bit of a moot point.
“Whether I do or don’t, it doesn’t matter,” Williams said. “This is what we got.”
There wasn’t much Bobby Jenks could say about his stiff back upon arriving at the White Sox clubhouse in Camden Yards Sunday morning. At that point, he hadn’t even tested the troublesome area.
So, Jenks simply gave a thumbs-up sign to the interested media and said his back was fine about an hour before playing long toss with Scott Linebrink on the field.
As for Jenks’ hold on the closer’s role, that status has become a bit more tenuous.
An argument could be made as to how the extreme scrutiny on every blown save or late loss coming from Jenks is a bit unfair. Here is a man who has been one of the game’s best closers over the past six years and truly one of the most important additions ever made to the White Sox franchise.
And take the same sort of struggles faced by Jenks since the All-Star break and apply them out to a hitter, as an example. If Alex Rios goes 0-for-30, he certainly won’t lose his starting job in center field. Then again, Rios might get a day or two off to get things back in order at the plate–all purely hypothetical, of course.
So, look at J.J. Putz’s move to the closer’s role as being more about Jenks’ back stiffness and a chance for him to regroup.
“I never take the job away from him because he blow a game,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Jenks. “He blow the game in (Game 2 of) the World Series, and the next day he was my guy. I just worry about what I see and what my pitching coach sees.
“You look at the record, and I don’t say we do him a favor. I have faith in him to be my closer, and you look at (Matt) Thornton and Putz and the way they throw the ball all year long, I don’t worry about that. I know those guys are going to do their job.
“Bobby has a lot of setbacks. Calve, back,” Guillen said. “He come out and pitch good for us. He does, and I never will take someone’s job just because.”
Since the second half began, Jenks has posted a 0-2 record with a 10.56 ERA. He blew a save in Seattle on July 21. He blew a save in Detroit on Aug. 5. He lost a game in Minneapolis on July 18.
Maybe Jenks doesn’t like working on getaway days. In all seriousness, just as Mark Buehrle goes through stretches of starts where opposing teams knock him around the ballpark, Jenks will not be perfect in every save opportunity. His rough outings gain greater notoriety because they obviously come at the end.
Guillen didn’t feel the need to explain his thought process to Jenks. He’s just waiting for his reliever to get fully healthy before possibly making him his closer again.
“When Bobby tells me ‘I’m healthy,’ (White Sox pitching coach Don) Cooper and myself have a job to do to put him on the spot to see how he throws,” Guillen said. “And then we make a decision. I’m not the type of guy to say, ‘You ready?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘OK here it is.’ I don’t think that’s fair for a ballclub.
“To me, the team is first, that’s it. And I’m going to give the team the best shot to win. I don’t say Bobby is not the best shot to win because I always say, if Bobby’s our closer, this bullpen will be better. But if not, we’ll find a way to do it.”
In a tight battle for the American League Central title, it’s all about what have you done for me lately–whether that reasoning is fair or not.
“Every day you come here you have to prove yourself,” Guillen said. “As a manager, as a coach, as a media member. If I’m going to read your stuff, I don’t want to read the same stuff every day.
“Players, coaches, trainers. Everybody that has a job has to prove themselves every day and show everybody how good they are. That’s it. No matter who you are, you have to come here every day and prove yourself. That’s how good players think. ‘I have to be better than yesterday.’
“Life is about that, to prove to people you’re good every day,” Guillen said. “It doesn’t just have to be once a week. It isn’t just about Bobby, it’s everybody. And that’s just how life is, unfortunately.”
It was Brent Lillibridge who reminded Juan Pierre earlier this week how the White Sox leadoff hitter sat just one stolen base away from 500 for his career. Pierre is far removed from a player who obsesses about personal statistics, but he actually knew how close he stood to that particular milestone prior to the advance warning.
“At home, they flash it on the scoreboard all the time,” said Pierre with a smile. “But I haven’t given it much thought past that.”
Pierre will be forced to ponder this accomplishment after stealing second base in the first inning of Thursday afternoon’s series finale at Comerica Park. Pierre ranks 37th on the all-time stolen base list, and actually received the base for his troubles, thanks to some fast maneuvering by clubhouse manager Vince Fresso.
There was no game stoppage or proclamation from Pierre as to how on that particular afternoon in Comerica Park, he was the greatest of all time. But in typical unselfish fashion, Pierre by-passed his individual accomplishment and paid homage to Major League Baseball’s greatest stolen base man in Rickey Henderson.
“Something like 500 stolen bases really makes you appreciate Rickey Henderson,” said Pierre, speaking on Friday evening in Baltimore of the Hall-of-Famer, who has a ridiculous career total of 1,406 stolen bases. “I’m about 1,000 away from him at 500, so what he did was unbelievable.
“The No. 1 thing is the longevity. And for stealing bases, you have to be healthy. If you are a home run hitter, a big guy, you can have a hamstring and swing and hit it out of the yard. For stealing bases, it’s about the longevity of taking that pounding, getting the jammed fingers and hands. So, it’s just remarkable what he did.”
Credit also was given by Pierre to Lou Brock, who had 938 stolen bases, and Tim Raines, who finished fifth all-time with 808.
“Stealing 800 or 900 is still a good little thing,” said Pierre with a laugh. “But Rickey set the bar. When I got to 500 and looked, it’s hard to fathom, 1,400.”
This first year with the White Sox has not been an easy one for Pierre. He was hitting just .193 at the end of April, with a .260 on-base percentage, while Scott Podsednik, the man who Pierre basically replaced, had a .400 average for the Royals.
White Sox team-wide struggles didn’t exactly cover up Pierre’s slow start. Now, the tireless worker has raised his average into the .260s and his even bumped up his RBI total to 27. It was an eventful week for Pierre, who also launched home run No. 14 of his career and broke a homerless streak of 809 at-bats.
With an implicit understanding of his job responsibilities, though, the stolen base numbers certainly mean more. Pierre also appreciated his teammates’ recognition for Thursday’s achievement.
“My job is to get on base. I don’t try to over-swing,” said Pierre, who joked how he does remember every home run he has hit. “Just keep my swing as compact as possible. I’m not a power guy. I don’t claim to be. Most of my doubles are hustle doubles. It has been like that for most of my career.
“Stolen bases aren’t the most glorious part of the game anymore, and the home run was good, but I’m a running guy so the stolen base meant more than a home run. Hopefully, I get a couple of more home runs here.”
The White Sox will have to make a roster move in between games of today’s doubleheader in order to bring up expected Game 2 starter, Carlos Torres, from Triple-A Charlotte. That temporary odd man out figures to be left-handed reliever Erick Threets, with the White Sox not needing to go with 13 pitchers, although Threets is out of options.
But with Torres being unavailable for the next four games after his start, the White Sox basically will be down to 11 pitchers and need another arm. They also will be left with one southpaw, in Matt Thornton, so they could dip to Charlotte for a left-hander and send Torres back, as they did with Lucas Harrell after last Friday’s victory.
Randy Williams, who started the season with the White Sox, could come back to the South Siders. Don’t be surprised, though, if Chris Sale, the team’s top pick from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and 13th selection overall, is promoted.
Sale has been dominant since being moved to Charlotte, fanning 15 over 6 1/3 innings. The White Sox believe he can help out of the bullpen this season, and with a spot open on the 40-man roster, Sale could start helping this week in Detroit.