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Closer Controversy Takes Center Stage

by Mike DePilla
Thursday, July 22, 2010
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Uh oh.

If Andruw Jones hadn't made an amazing diving catch-double play in the bottom of the ninth inning, the White Sox probably wouldn't have a closer controversy on their hands. But he did, and they do.

With King Felix on the mound and flat out dealing, this wasn't a game the Sox were supposed to win anyway. Thing is, Gavin Floyd was dealing as well and, after some stellar defense and a clutch base hit, the Sox were three outs away from sweeping the Mariners and putting Sunday's meltdown firmly in the rear-view mirror. Instead, the Sox have now watched two wins get ripped out of their grasp in four days, and the story has gone from side note to main focus.

Bobby Jenks just doesn't look comfortable at all on the mound right now. From the moment he jogs in from the bullpen to his shaking off of AJ Pierzynski's signs, you just get a vision of bad things happening. Walks helped lead to his problems on Sunday, but even when he does get ahead of a hitter, he doesn't have an out pitch: he's not making anybody swing and miss. Heck, he's not even making them swing and hit anything but a line drive.

His bread and butter out pitch is the curveball, and he has abandoned it the last few times out. There is no chance Jenks can maintain effectiveness with a mediocre fastball and a piss poor slider. It only took the Mariners 10 pitches to score two runs last night. If his arm is in pain and he physically cannot throw a good breaking ball, he's not going to last long, even in a set up role.

Now, whether this is a lingering affect of his family issues, a physical ailment or something else entirely is impossible to tell. Before the All-Star break, Jenks did pick up two relatively clean saves against the Angels after coming back from his leave on the bereavement list. But he's been pretty bad since the bell rang for the second half: 7 runs in 2.2 innings pitched.

On July 15, Bobby was called on for a multiple inning save against the Twins. After recording the final out in the eight, he was shaky in the ninth inning that game, allowing a run on two hits. He's been downright terrible since then. His next appearance, three days later, was the infamous 4-run, zero-out implosion. He did pitch a scoreless inning two nights ago, but he couldn't handle back to back games. In his last two save opportunities, Jenks has recorded only one out- and it was on a sacrifice bunt.

Did that multiple inning outing mess him up? Is there arm fatigue we don't know about? Has his confidence eroded? Is it time to hand the ball over to JJ Putz in the ninth inning? Will Bobby get the 2005 Shingo treatment?

These are tough questions and, in any case, it will be a tough decision for Ozzie Guillen. It appears Ozzie is leaning toward a closer by committee, an acceptable decision, judging from his postgame comments.

If the Sox had lost 1-0 in the 9th inning on Bradley's bloop single, you could shrug and be happy with two out of three. But instead, today is going to be a long day off.


  1. There is another issue, relative to Jenks, that you and others omit. He CANNOT hold runners. Any walk is almost an automatic triple. You cannot be effective if every runner you put on base scores..geez, you are a major league pitcher . Even my 12 year olds check their runners.

  2. Great point, J. Take the 9th inning on Wednesday- once Figgins singled, was there any chance he WOULDN'T steal second base?