CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Everything is new to Bobby Jenks these days.
The enormous pickup truck might be familiar, along with the blonde beard and orange All-Star Game t-shirt. But the familiarity thins out exponentially from there.
Thursday, the alteration was prevalent in the heart of a strip mall off Arizona Ave.
For the first time in his professional baseball-playing career, Jenks is joining a group of fellow big leaguers to march through the offseason's workouts together. More specifically, the new Red Sox reliever has committed to calling Keith Poole's Training Zone his place of preparation and Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier and Kevin Frandsen his partners in the process.
He had always remained in Chicago throughout the winter months, guiding himself while seeking out somebody with whom to play catch. Not this time around.
"I usually do everything on my own," said the affable 29-year-old. "I find my own catch partner in the winter, and sometimes that in itself was tough to do. I can already see a big difference in strength-wise where I'm at compared to years past going into spring training.
"Right now I'm further ahead than I ever have been. Hopefully that will speak for itself once the season starts."
It is all part of the metamorphosis for Jenks. About 30 minutes into his workout, he is presented with another alteration.
"Is he like this all the time," the pitcher asks Frandsen, referring to the never-ending stream of Pedroia-isms.
"You haven't seen anything yet," Frandsen responded.
(A few moments earlier, Pedroia could be found flexing while yelling over to Jenks, "This is what you'll have playing behind you this season!")
Again, for Jenks, this new existence is all about adjustments, and he understands weathering the energetic ways of his new second baseman will be the least of his worries.
DEALING WITH THE PAST
The Idaho native has already taken the proper steps toward making the move from Chicago White Sox closer to Boston Red Sox set-up man. Like it or not, Jenks' first step was going about putting his problems in the rear-view, most notably his recent dust-up with Oney Guillen, the son of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
The younger Guillen had taken issue with Jenks' statement to MLB.com that he was "looking forward to playing for a manager who knows how to run a bullpen." Oney took to Twitter to call the pitcher a "punk," while firing off a series of critical Tweets regarding the former Chicago closer.
It all served as Jenks' first opportunity to deal with the problems of the past in order to dive into his future.
"I'm not really disappointed because there was no one who was affiliated with the team that was talking crap," he said. "This was coming from the manager's son, who gave his own opinion. I did an interview as heartfelt as I could, all the things about leaving the team. Of course I was upset. I had been there for so long and knew everybody so well and was sad to leave. Obviously things change in this game. It was just unfortunate the way things did turn out."
Jenks understands that questions regarding his departure from Chicago weren't going to begin and end with the social networking strategy of the manager's son.
The righty had what was considered a subpar season by his standards in 2010, compiling a 4.44 ERA with 27 saves in 55 games. It ended with Jenks missing the season's final month with a strained ulnar nerve. He wanted to punctuate his season by pitching down the home-stretch, but the White Sox took a different route.
It was another topic Jenks won't shy away from, but also refuses to harp on.
"In my mind I was active for that last series," he said. "Obviously that's a path I don't want to go down again and get in that whole conversation, but I was ready for the last entire homestand of the season and whatever reasons were behind not activating me until the last day of the season, I'll never know. I really don't care now. I've let it go."
THE ROAD TO THE RED SOX
The first huge wave of change for Jenks didn't truly come until he dove into the free-agent waters.
He had switched organizations once before, going from the Angels to Chicago when the White Sox claimed the then-starter off waivers on Dec. 17, 2004. But this wasn't anything like Jenks had experienced before. He had accumulated 173 saves since grabbing the closer's role in '05. It had been a career that allowed for a $7.5 million salary in his second season of arbitration eligibility in 2010.
But when the White Sox chose to non-tender the reliever, the changes started to amp up a notch.
Despite a down year and a sluggish closers market, Jenks had opportunities to continue his career as a game-finisher. Tampa Bay and Baltimore were both interested. And then came a curveball: Texas wanted Jenks, but only as a starting pitcher.
"I was a little thrown back," said Jenks of the Rangers' offer. "I would be lying to say it wasn't intriguing. It would be fun, but is it really worth it? I haven't started since '04. I think the longest I've ever gone in the big leagues is three innings. It was one of those moves where, yeah it sounds exciting at first, but the more thought you give it the more sense it makes not to do it."
What did make sense for Jenks was agreeing to terms with the Red Sox. He had followed the team's moves, and had perhaps more familiarity with players on Boston's roster than any other club. (For instance, he played with Kevin Youkilis in the Arizona Fall League.) So, even though this would not be another chance to close, the two-year, $12 million deal was the kind of change the reliever was looking for.
"It was just one of those things I've always been excited about, the idea of playing for this team," Jenks explained. "And once the opportunity was there I took it as soon as I found out. I don't know what the date was, but I found out [about the offer] in the morning and agreed to it that afternoon.
"This just made a lot of sense, especially with the two-year deal. It was a little more security. You don't have to worry about bouncing around too much, going year to year. I'm able to bring the family out early and be able to enjoy the season. Obviously anything can happen, and you can get traded still, but there was a little bit more peace of mind knowing there's at least two years there."
It would seem to most that of all the changes in store for Jenks, the most daunting of them all might be co-existing with Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
The two pitchers' roles have already been defined at every turn, with the newcomer but that hasn't prevented some from anticipating a dose of drama somewhere along the line. Jenks, however, views this dynamic as the least of his concerns.
"The way I see it, how many other teams have two No. 1 closers going eighth and ninth inning? When it's all said and done, and everybody gets it out of their system, they're going to realize that there is nothing there other than two guys going out there," Jenks said.
"I know what my role is. I'm not to step on anybody's feet. I definitely don't want to make it seem like l'm here to steal anybody's job, because that's not the case. I was excited about the opportunity to come and play and be the eighth inning guy, or the occasional ninth if [Papelbon's] down. I know coming into this what my situation was and I accept this with open arms and an open heart and I'm just ready to play."
No, dealing with the personality part of the bullpen depth chart isn't of a concern for Jenks. He does, however, realize the change will necessitate some on-the-job research.
Since Papelbon became the Red Sox' closer, two long-time game-enders, Eric Gagne and Billy Wagner, have joined the Sox as set-up men. Both expressed frustration in adjusting to the role, citing the difference in the job's definition and adrenaline.
Jenks started his research on the matter a while ago, asking former closer-turned-eighth-inning guy J.J. Putz about the change. The lessons were well-received.
"If you can get yourself in the right mindset to prepare yourself as if the eighth inning is the ninth inning, it helps," he said. "Obviously, it's not like flipping on a switch. It's going to take some time to make that adjustment. But if there is an adjustment, spring training is as good a time as any to make that adjustment."
Even when it comes to the aforementioned spring training, Jenks is thinking about what lays ahead.
The image of the 6-foot-4 pitcher taking the mound for initial his bullpen sessions will elicit sprints to the radar-gun readings. The reliever knows better. Among all the changes, his early approach won't get thrown out the window.
"There's no extra motivation," he said. "Obviously I'm going to go out there and give everything I've got to win and be the best I can. I'm not going to add any pressure on myself, especially going into spring where those games don't mean anything yet. Going into spring it's one of those things, as exciting and as fun as it's going to be this year, it's still spring training. You still have to just get your body ready.
"I'm a better pitcher, not just a guy that throws anymore. It has been a thing over the last three or four years where there have been times in the season where I didn't have my stuff but was still able to get the job done. You just have to learn from that when you don't have your best stuff. The more you have to go out there without your closer's stuff the more you're going to learn. I think it was '08 my velocity was down the entire year and I really had to learn how to pitch, move the ball around, and make adjustments on the fly and really learn how to pitch. I think that was a big difference for me."
Times have changed, and so has Jenks.
"Nowadays I'm all about keeping it quiet, going about my business and doing things the right way," he said. "I'm excited."
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