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

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.