Injury might be blessing for Jenks

Injury might be blessing for Jenks

CHICAGO -- Leave it to Bobby Jenks to find fault in Tuesday's scoreless inning of relief to close out the White Sox 5-0 victory over Seattle.

When you carry a 1.13 ERA over 16 games, as the White Sox closer has posted recently, it's hard to point to any sort of distinct flaw. But Jenks still was unhappy with the two-out walk he issued to Yuniesky Betancourt.

"I was ahead in the count and that shouldn't have happened," said Jenks, who walked Betancourt after getting in front with two quick strikes. "But the way I look at it is you work those type of innings in that sort of game situation now, and when I get in for a save, I will have let those bad ones go."

Jenks pitched Tuesday basically because he had worked only one game since Aug. 13. With the hapless state of Seattle baseball, there was a good chance Jenks wouldn't be needed to save Wednesday's victory, so Tuesday's inning avoided too much of a prolonged layoff for the right-hander.

From June 30 to July 18, Jenks already had an unwanted break when he was placed on the disabled list with left scapula bursitis. The good news in regard to the injury was that it didn't have anything to do with his pitching arm, but a side benefit might be a much fresher Jenks down the stretch.

Since his return, Jenks has converted all seven of his save opportunities and has not allowed a run in those situations. Jenks' fastball on Tuesday checked in consistently in the range of 95-96 mph.

"Having that DL time refreshed my throwing arm, which is kind of nice after having the problem," Jenks said. "But down the stretch, I just have to keep getting my innings and stay right where I am, and I'll be fine."

"That's always the other end of an injury, get a little rest and gear up," added White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "He does look strong, and that's a good thing because we need him strong. [The trip to the DL] might be something that in a strange way, it may be a benefit."

The All-Star-caliber closer has been one of the best in the business over the past three years, becoming the first pitcher in White Sox history to post back-to-back 40-save seasons in 2006 and '07. But during the 2007 and '08 campaigns, Jenks has developed from a hard-throwing closer into a dominant pitcher.

His ERA checked in at 2.77 as one of the team's lone highlights in 2007. Entering Wednesday, Jenks carried a 1.79 ERA in 45 games, with 25 saves and a .214 opponents' average against. The key to Jenks' success begins with locating his pitches, looking for the quick outs instead of trying to overpower the opposition for strikeouts.

But he also has made a season-long commitment to physical conditioning, which has paid major dividends.

"It's about staying on top of conditioning, not shutting it down halfway through," Jenks said. "In the first half, I was in the gym four days per week, and in the second half, I'm in three days per week to maintain."

"Bobby has been through the wars and knows how long the season is," Cooper added. "That's experience. He has matured more and is always ready for us."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.