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Yup, Bobby Jenks turned another statement win into a heartbreaking loss during this road trip, throwing unimpressive two-seamers and flat sliders to his demise against the Mariners on Wednesday night. Lest we spill too much virtual ink and real vomit, allow me to attempt to quell concerns with two points.
No. 1: It was extra innings against Seattle. Last season, the Sox lost not one, but two games to the Mariners in 14 innings. Maybe they’re a less threatening version of the Twins.
No. 2: It’s a rerun. Earlier this season, even. Jenks was worse for longer, and he bounced back.
A difference in opinion has also happened before. Ozzie Guillen says the closer job is open after watching Jenks’ fastball settle in the low ’90s:
“Right now, I tell you how I feel. That’s part of the game. In the meanwhile, we fight hard. I feel for him, like everyone else here. We win together, we lose together. But in the meanwhile, I wish he’d throw the ball better because of the last couple outings. Not because we lose the game, but because I don’t see anything on the ball.”
Whereas Jenks said his dip in velocity was due to throwing sinkers.
Either way, the last time this took place, Ozzie Guillen used Matt Thornton to take a batter in the ninth, and everybody eventually recovered. J.J. Putz wasn’t his current self at that point, either, so Guillen has another way he can go, too.
But I’m not inclined to make too much of it. Public displays of tough love are standards of practice when it comes to an often-indignant Jenks, and as fragile as his entire existence as a closer has been over the last few years, he’s surprisingly resilient. But if he never returns to his June self, it’s not like the Sox are screwed. If it allows Guillen to be freely flexible with his late-inning options, this entire episode may be a blessing in disguise.
Here’s a more interesting question to me: How well does Erick Threets have to throw to keep Chris Sale off his tail?
Guillen wasn’t exactly managing this game to win, which is another reason why I’m not inclined to get all that upset about the developments. He had long-term implications in mind for this one, and he intended to go without Thornton and Putz if at all possible, and so he turned to Erick Threets instead for the dirty left-handed work.
And man, Threets was good.
There are a couple of obvious disclaimers. Seattle has no offense, and the 9-3 double play was more luck than skill, even if he did half the job by breaking Milton Bradley’s bat.
Let’s not over-qualify his performance, though. Striking out the side in the 10th inning was all him. That backdoor 3-2 slider he threw to Justin Smoak leading off the inning was an immaculately executed pitch, and he completely manhandled Ryan Langerhans, too. At this point, the biggest tragedy of Wednesday night’s events is that Jenks denied Threets a well-deserved first major-league win.
It was a great night of work, making it four successful outings in five so far. That isn’t enough to start penciling him in for high-leverage work, but he’s given some reason to believe he’s a clear step up from RAAAAAAAAAANDY, Boone Logan, Horacio Ramirez, Mike Myers, and every other second lefty that the Sox have cast by the wayside.
If he continues on this path toward reliable competence, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if Sale pitches well at Charlotte. Obviously, it’d be great if the Sox didn’t have to start his service time two months after they drafted him, and also spared us the hand-wringing over whether this is detrimental towards his long-term development.
On the other hand, Sale signed early — and relatively cheaply — with the idea that he had inroads to the 25-man roster if he retired minor-league hitters with ease in short stints. If he ended up blocked by what could be a run-of-the-mill journeyman having the best stretch of his career, whose interest would get higher priority?
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 2, Louisville 1
- Tyler Flowers walked once and struck out three times.
- Brent Morel went 0-for-4 with an RBI.
- Alejandro De Aza singled, doubled and walked over four PAs.
- Jeff Marquez was effective: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.
- Jhonny Nunez struck out three and walked one over two scoreless innings.
- Kinston 5, Winston-Salem 1
- Brandon Short went 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch.
- Jon Gilmore was 1-for-4.
- Greenville 4, Kannapolis 1
- Kyle Colligan went 1-for-3 with a walk.
- Nick Ciolli doubled, singled and struck out twice.
- Tyler Saladino was 0-for-4 with a K, and so was Miguel Gonzalez.
- Greeneville 5, Bristol 1
- Daniel Black doubled twice and struck out once over four ABs.
- Casper 8, Great Falls 1
- Andy Wilkins (two K’s) and Ross Wilson went 1-for-4.