Jenks' ex-coach thinks he'll shine with Red Sox

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Jenks' ex-coach thinks he'll shine with Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

Art Kusnyer was with Bobby Jenks when the newest member of the Red Sox bullpen was at his best. And, he believes, Jenks can be that good again.

Jenks slipped in 2010, compiling a career-worst 4.44 ERA and registered just 27 saves. But Kusnyer, who was the Chicago White Sox' bullpen coach for Jenks' first three seasons in the big leagues, thinks a turnaround and return to form are possible.

"What happened last season, I don't know," said Kusnyer from his home in Florida. "The only thing I can tell you is wish I had been there. The guy still has great stuff. He can get it done. I know he's got big-time guts.

"I know in the past, he was a guy you could really count on. I think he needs a change of scenery. I think going to a team like Boston could be just the thing he needs."

Kusnyer recalls Jenks' 2005 season, when the rookie reliever took on the closer's role for the White Sox and helped them to their first World Series title since 1917.

"Right from the beginning, there was no fear there,'' recalled Kusnyer, who still works as a consultant for the White Sox. "He came straight from Double-A and the bullpen phone would ring. He'd throw one pitch and say, 'Tell them I'm ready.' He was all business out there.

"That's the type of mentality you want. I always said that it takes a certain mentality out there. And Bobby has it."

After parts of six seasons with the White Sox, Jenks will be starting over -- changing cities and changing roles.

"There's a comfort factor that comes from being with the same team for a number of years," said Kusnyer "You've got it made, people know what you can do. But when you someplace else, someplace new, there's a little bit of that, 'You've gotta put up or shut up.' "

And the fact that the White Sox elected to non-tender Jenks earlier this month, making him a free agent, may serve as extra motivation for the veteran reliever.

"Knowing him," said Kusnyer, "he'll say, 'OK, if they don't want me, I'll just go somewhere else.' "

The White Sox non-tendered him so they wouldn't be in danger of having him go to salary arbitration after a 7.5 million salary in 2010. But they remained interested enough in Jenks to offer him a two-year deal.

By then, however, Jenks had made a decision to move on.

With the Red Sox, Jenks will go from closing -- he amassed 173 saves with the White Sox -- to helping Daniel Bard set up for Jontahan Papelbon.

"I don't think the new role will be a problem,'' sad Kusnyer. "He'll settle in. That seventh and eighth inning can be just as important as the ninth. If you don't have the right guy to get you to your closer, you're not going anywhere as a team.

"Bobby will accept that role. He'll kind of be their closer within a closer.''

As the bullpen coach for the White Sox for two different stints and time spent in Oakland filling the same role, Kusnyer has experience working with elite closers. He worked with Bobby Thigpen when Thigpen set a major-league mark for most saves in a season (57) and also worked with Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage.

All of them, Kusnyer said, shared a similar competitive streak and intense makeup.

Jenks has a reputation for being something of a free spirit -- but only to a point.

"He would do his share of goofing around," said Kusnyer, "but when the bell rang, he'd be ready. I used to have to get on his ass a little bit. He got into a comfort stage and needed more direction. When that happens, you need to talk to him one-on-one. You can't be controntational with him. These guys have their pride and they don't like to be embarrassed.

"If there's a problem, you take him off to the side and deal with it. But I don't think there's going to be many problems. I think Bobby will take this opportunity and be as good in the seventh and eighth as he was closing.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''