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Bobby Jenks: ‘I’m not here to step on anybody’s toes’

02.13.11 at 9:50 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Bobby Jenks arrived at the Red Sox minor league training facility on Sunday morning, and admitted that there were unfamiliar elements that greeted him on a new team. There was, of course, the issue of making sure he found the far end of Edison Ave. in Fort Myers, as well as the unusual hue of his new threads.

“I put my jersey on earlier. Not used to the color yet,” said Jenks. “That takes some time, but very excited to be here.”

That is not the only unfamiliar element of Jenks’ new club. He is making a transition to a new team, a new division and a new role, as after spending the last five-plus years as the closer of the White Sox, he will now be serving as the setup man for Jonathan Papelbon.

The presence of Jenks — a two-time All-Star closer — on the roster could lend itself to clamoring for Papelbon to be replaced in that game-ending role should the Red Sox’ longtime closer stumble. But Jenks, who has 173 saves in his career, insisted that if there is any question about the definition of late-inning roles, it will not be the result of his politicking.

“I didn’t come here to step on anybody’s toes. I know what my role is,” said Jenks. “Coming here, [Papelbon and Jenks have] been friends for many years now, I don’t think that’s going to be any problem throughout the year at all. …

“If those questions do come up, it’s going to come down to the decision of the management and whatever they think is best for the team. If that means whatever it means, they’re doing it for their own reasons.”

The 29-year-old (he turns 30 in a month) — who said that he had free-agent offers to close — said that he wasn’t entirely certain of what that transition would entail, but he was more than happy to try it. For the opportunity to pitch with the Red Sox, he was willing to depart from his comfort zone.

“Once the opportunity came up, I had the chance to come here and I jumped right on it. There was no real other reason than that. I had a few other opportunities to close right away, keep doing what I was doing, but I jumped right on it,” said Jenks. “It’s going to be different, obviously. It’s an adjustment that I’ll have to make on the field. There have been times in my career where I’ve come in in the eighth and finished the ninth. You just have to take that mentality into the eighth every time.

“I’ve talked [about the transition to setting up] to a few coaches I know in Arizona who have been around the game and stuff, but no one in person who has done or is doing what I’m doing now. It’s going to have to be one of those moments where I just adjust on the fly and do everything you can in spring to get ready for those.”

Jenks suggested that the adjustment is mental rather than physical, but that it will also entail a bit of a change in his routine in order to be ready to enter the game at earlier points.

Other highlights:

–Jenks said that the Red Sox were the East Coast team he most wanted to play for, and that he preferred Boston to its American League East rival in New York.

“It wasn’t a matter of money or years. I wanted to play baseball for the Red Sox. I got that opportunity and I jumped on it,” he said. “It’s the Red Sox. I don’t want to go into the whole Red Sox-Yankees battle just yet, but I’d rather be a Red Sox, for sure. I know you guys want it and the fans want it, but I’d rather be here than anywhere on the East Coast. Let’s just leave it at that.”

–Asked about the tweeting behavior of Oney Guillen, the son of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, Jenks declined to engage. While Oney Guillen made public conversations with the White Sox manager that were ostensibly private, Jenks said that he did not feel compelled to respond or to set up his own twitter account to offer a rebuttal.

“I don’t need to get into a battle of words. He had his moment, and that was it,” said Jenks. “I haven’t commented on it. That’s where I’m going to leave it. That’s it. I’m not even going to go [there].”

–Jenks on his physical condition (including his elbow, which encountered late-season tendinitis and required him to be shut down by the White Sox for a few weeks in Sept.):

“Great. Very good. I’ve been working with someone all winter long. I’m very strong right now. Very strong. My arm feels great. Right now, it feels better at this point than it has a little while. I’m excited about that, to see where we’re at coming into this year,” said Jenks. “At the time, obviously, [he was] very concerned [about the elbow]. But the more doctors I’ve seen, the more MRIs, the more X-rays I got, the better I felt because I knew there was nothing serious in there. It was just a little (feeling) in the nerve. All it needed was rest. There was no question in anybody’s mind that that’s all it was. It was a relief, even though I didn’t get into a game, I was able to pitch the last series of the season last year. That was a nice mindset going into the winter, into the offseason, going into free agency.”

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