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The world according to Jenks: Reliever ready to set up Papelbon

12.21.10 at 4:58 pm ET
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Speaking on a conference call to introduce Bobby Jenks as the Red Sox‘€™ newest reliever, Sox general manager Theo Epstein made it clear that the plan is for the 29-year-old former White Sox closer to set up Jonathan Papelbon in 2011.

‘€œWe feel really lucky that Bobby wanted to pitch here and we were able to get someone of his caliber to join our bullpen and help Dan Bard set up for Pap,’€ Epstein said.

‘€œIt’s not everyday you can bring someone of this caliber without a closer opening. We felt lucky that it happened. Bobby is someone that has great stuff, but we see him as more than just a thrower. He really knows how to pitch, as well. He goes right at guys and throws strikes. He brings the kind of fearlessness to the mound we look for in a market like Boston. We think that he’s going to fit in great and hopefully be part of a pen that’s going to be one of the best ones we have around here in a long time.’€

Epstein said that he had been in constant communication with Papelbon’€™s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, throughout the negotiations with Jenks, and that the GM had left a voicemail for the Sox’€™ closer once the deal (reportedly worth two years, $12 million) had been completed.

‘€œPap, I’m sure, is fine with this,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œWho wouldn’t want guys like this pitching along side him in the bullpen. Pap kind of disappears in the offseason, does his whole thing, and then shows up ready to go in spring training in great shape like always. Every time we add someone of quality to the bullpen he’s excited about it, and I believe that should certainly be the case again this time.’€

Jenks, who has been the White Sox’€™ full-time closer since 2006, said he understood the dynamic that will present itself with the Red Sox, and that he relishes the chance to join Daniel Bard in setting up Papelbon.

‘€œI was just excited to just get the opportunity to come here,’€ Jenks said. ‘€œObviously with the team they’re putting together this year, it’s very exciting, very appetizing. I’ve always wanted to play in Boston. A few years back when I came back here me and [Josh] Beckett were hanging out I told him this was one of the places I’ve always wanted to play. When it became available I jumped on it.’€

Asked about the adjustment he will have to make in primarily pitching prior to the ninth inning, Jenks said, ‘€œIt’s all mental. You just have to go out there and stay more focused and approach it the same.’€

Jenks said that the elbow tendonitis that forced him to miss most of the final month of the 2010 season was no longer a problem.

‘€œI feel 100 percent right now,’€ he said. ‘€œThe whole elbow thing going on last year, I think it was more of a scare for everyone than something that was actually wrong. Going into the offseason I knew I was 100 percent healthy. It was frustrating for me not being able to finish off the season to at least show people I was healthy. ‘€œMedically I was cleared to go and I was throwing off the mound at the end of the year, throwing bullpens at 100 percent. Going into the spring I’m going to be 100 percent healthy and ready to go.’€

Asked about whether or the not the Red Sox might be adding another lefty to their roster, Epstein suggested there are a variety of different approaches the team could take.

“We’ll see. We certainly like the non-roster options that we have from the left side with Rich Hill, Andrew Miller and Randy Williams,” the GM noted. “We’re certainly comfortable coming to spring training and looking more closely at that group. There are still some guys out there that we’re talking to. But I think the biggest thing is that we’ve added a lot of depth, a lot of experience, power arms and strike-throwers to our pen. Last year was a struggle all season for us to cobble it together and to give Tito some quality options. We feel like even if we broke camp today we have an abundance of options and different looks with guys who can go through the heart of a team’s order and get to Pap.”

As for Miller, Epstein said that short-term the plan is to give him a chance to make the Sox’ bullpen, although the organization does think the lefty has a future as a starter.

“We’re open to both,” said Epstein in regard to roles for Miller. “I think long-term the goal is to get him back to being a starting pitcher. He’s got a tremendous ceiling as a starter. Short-term it’s probably worth our while to take a look at him out of the pen, especially in spring training. I think some of the adjustments that we plan to make with him, not to go into too much detail, but simplifying some things, lend themselves to a look as a reliever in spring training. I think ultimately there’s still the chance for him to be a starter, and a really good one. But along the way, because the need is more likely to present itself as a reliever for the organization, we’re going to certainly keep that option open as we go.”

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