CHICAGO -- After dealing with an offseason hit occasionally by trade rumors mentioning his name, Bobby Jenks remains in the baseball position he desired as the White Sox closer entering the 2009 campaign.
The only difference is that Jenks, who turns 28 on March 14, officially will be a much higher-paid last line of pitching defense for the South Siders. The two sides avoided Tuesday's deadline of exchanging arbitration figures by agreeing to a one-year, $5.6 million deal. Jenks' new deal stands a little more than 10 times as much as he earned in 2008, when the big right-hander had a salary of $550,000.
In a talk with MLB.com back in mid-December 2008, Jenks explained how he basically stayed out of the contract negotiations and left the dealings to his agent and the White Sox. Jenks also didn't seem bothered that the discussions never really focused on inking the reliable closer to a multi-year deal, with the White Sox still having him under team control through the 2011 season.
His 2.63 ERA posted over 61 2/3 innings during the 2008 season marked the third straight year in which Jenks' numbers improved in this statistical category. He saved 30 games and ranked sixth in the American League in save percentage with just four blown saves (30-34 over 88 2/3 innings). Jenks became the first closer in franchise history to record 30 or more saves in three straight seasons, after being the first White Sox closer to record 40 or more saves in back-to-back seasons in '06 and '07.
Overall, Jenks has 117 career saves and ranks third on the all-time franchise list, trailing Bobby Thigpen (201) and Roberto Hernandez (161). His 100th career save, picked up on May 26, 2008, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, left him as the second-fastest pitcher in Major League history to reach that milestone, behind Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki.
During 235 2/3 innings pitched with the White Sox, beginning in the memorable season of 2005, Jenks has produced 224 strikeouts and walked 76. Both of those numbers have dipped the last two years, but in Jenks' mind, those totals simply illustrate how he has developed into more of a pitcher as opposed to simply a thrower with a 100-mph fastball.
"I know how to look at a hitter -- know what he has done against me in the past and learn from those at-bats," Jenks told MLB.com of his more economical pitching style, contributing to his career 87.9 save-efficiency rate. "I look at charts, look at the possibilities off the bench and then try to use what I know to get the job done on the field. I know how to pitch."
Jenks stood as the team's last remaining arbitration eligible player.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.