Pitching fits: Garcia working hard, Jenks absent

Pitching fits: Garcia working hard, Jenks absent
September 21, 2010, 3:59 am
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Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
Updated 11:10 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

OAKLAND Something to watch down the stretch, White Sox fans, is the fate of two of the remaining three pitchers from the 2005 World Series-winning Chicago squad, Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks.

Garcia has been gradually recovering from back pain hes attempted to fight through since the beginning of September. Garcia pitched six innings in his two most recent, aborted starts, the first an eventual 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 1 and the second a two-inning effort in a 11-6 loss at the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 7. In the process of recovery, Garcia has even received an epidural to relieve the discomfort in his back and aid the then still-alive White Sox playoff hopes.

Garcia has been a true, key cog on the White Sox this season, and is arguably the biggest surprise of the team in 2010. His numbers are nowhere near gaudy (4.88 ERA, and his first sub-2.00 KBB1.93in a decade), but his 62 percent mark on quality starts is second-best among the teams four season-long starters, trailing John Danks by a wisp and leading Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd.

I expect Freddy to pitch this trip, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I dont know where. I expect him to pitch again but hes got to throw in the pen first. I wont say Im counting on him, but I feel optimistic about having him on the mound before we return to Chicago.

Guillen has been awestruck by Garcias season, and of late, the veteran starters pain threshold. On the flip side, Guillen has been relatively dismissive of Jenks, subscribing to an outta-site, outta-mind philosophy with his wounded closer. Little changed in his comments on Monday in Oakland.

Bobbys home, Guillen said, surprising his pregame media gathering with the news that Jenks had been left behind. The six or seven days were going to be here, hes not going to throw, so I dont see why we would bring him here. White Sox trainer Herm Schneider knows better about what rehab Jenks is going to do.

Jenks, on the other hand, seems to have packed his season in. I said it last week, and Ill repeat it, with a relatively poor season (just 27 saves, a career low, and a 4.44 ERA, a career high and Jenkss first-ever ERA worse than the league average) marked again by iffy conditioning, Jenks is almost certain to leave Chicago after the 2010 season.

The burly closer has been increasingly slowed by injuries and was already on his way out after making 7.5 million this season and looking for a raise in 2011. But the strained forearm that will essentially erase his September has soured for good his future with the team.

While Jake Peavy is on this trip despite his best contribution to the team being antes to the pot on a bad poker night, Jenks is back in Chicago, purportedly to rehab his right arm in ways he could not on the trip with the team.

When Bobbys on the mound or available to pitch, our bullpen is better, said Guillen, chanting again the mantra hes spun all summer. But I dont know what direction were going to go, dont know what we have in mind. Bobbys been great for this organization since hes been here.

If it turns out Jenks has tossed his last with the White Sox, he will go down as the teams second-best fireman of all-time, with 173 saves trailing only Bobby Thigpens 201. And he will also have gone out on a high note, with badass doubleheader saves on Sept. 4 at the Red Sox.

Bringing Jenks back is the front office peoples job, Guillen said. I dont have any idea what theyre going to do. We havent talked about it yet. We havent had any meetings yet. I have to wait and have a clearer idea.

If that sounds like Guillen is hedging, he is. Theres a clear idea of what the future holds, and that future has any number of options, from Sergio Santos to Chris Sale to J.J. Putz to Matt Thornton, taking a crack at filling Jenkss shoes for a fraction of the price. It would be overly dramatic to say Jenkss lost September is the final straw, but while Garcia is fighting like hell to get back on the mound to finish out the season, Jenks is packing up his locker.

Its not just moxieor the lack ofthat has separated the two pitchers as their time in Chicago winds short. Garcias 2010 efforts have produced 1.4 WAR, which is by no means spectacular but downright stellar for the starters 1 million pricetag. Conversely, the only pitcher on the White Sox full-season roster worse than Jenkss 0.3 WAR is Tony Penas -0.6. As overpaid as Scott Linebrink is, he also boasts a 0.3 WAR for 2.5 million less than Jenks.

I hope when we get to Chicago, at least he can throw one or two innings to see if he can finish the year, Guillen said.

Guillen, while fully respecting the enormous role Jenks has played for the White Sox in his six seasons on the South Side, surely doesnt believe he will.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.