By Sean McAdam
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At 6-4 and at least 250 or so pounds, it's not easy for Bobby Jenks to step lightly. Even after a winter of conditioning, the new Red Sox reliever cuts a hulking figure.
But in his first full day in camp here, Jenks, who signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox last December to serve as a set-up man in the bullpen, was careful to watch where he was going.
"I didn't come here to step on anyone's toes," said Jenks, as soon as someone asked him about co-existing with Jonathan Papelbon at the back end of the Boston bullpen. "I know what my role is."
Last week, Papelbon told ESPNBoston.com that he fully expects fans to begin clamoring for Jenks to take over the closer's role the first time Papelbon blows a save.
Jenks chuckled at the suggestion, but again made clear he's not gunning for Papelbon's job.
"If those questions do come up," he said, "it's going to come down to the decision of management and whatever they think is best for the team. If that meansc whatever it means, they're doing it for their own reasons."
Jenks had been the Chicago White Sox closer for most of the last six seasonscand heading into free agency, he had offers from teams to continue in that role. Instead, he came to Boston, where he will pair with Daniel Bard to handle the seventh and eighth innings.
"I had a few other opportunities to close right away," revealed Jenks, "and keep doing what I was doing. But when the Red Sox called, I jumped right on it."
After years of being entrusted with the final three outs, Jenks must adapt to not only a new city and new teammates, but also, a new role.
"It's going to be an different, obviously," he said, "and it's going to be an adjustment I'll have to make on the field. There have been times throughout my career when I've come in in the eighth inning and finished the ninth. You just have to take that same kind of mentality out there in the eighth every time.
"It's going to be an adjustment, day-to-day, something I'm going to have to learn from quickly once the season starts and get myself adapted to that type of mental mindset."
While Jenks hasn't solicited any advice from others who have made a similar switch from closing to set-up work.
"I've talked to a few coaches that I know who've been around the game a long time," he said. "But no one who's doing what I'm doing now. It's just going to have to be one of those moments where I adjust on the fly and do everything that I can this spring to get ready."
He expects that most of the adjustments will be from a mental standpoint. Physically, the job is no different.
"It's got to be more mental," Jenks ventured, "because the physical is already there. When you come in for the eighth and you're going back out for the ninth, you know that so you keep yourself going between innings. It might be something I need to get myself ready in the seventh to take that mindset into the game."
Jenks has chatted with Papelbon before and considers him a friend. The two shared a kinship as part of the relatively small fraternity of relievers who are called upon for the final three outs of a game.
"It's one of those things that goes on all around baseball," said Jenks. "If you're a closer, you talk to the other closer. Even ex-closers, you have this little bond."
He battled elbow issues in the second half of last season, but found, to his relief, that the problem was merely a tweaked nerve that required rest and rehab, but no surgery.
"There was no question in anyone's mind that that's all it was," he said.