Notes: Jenks sharp despite inactivity

Notes: Jenks sharp despite inactivity

CHICAGO -- Bobby Jenks has pitched in only six games since Aug. 12, the price a closer pays when working for a team entering Friday with just five victories over that time frame.

But this ability to stay sharp in the face of inactivity stands out as just one reason as to why Jenks has joined the truly elite in terms of baseball's last line of pitching defense.

"He is the best closer, to me, with all due respect to all the guys who have more saves than him," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Jenks. "This kid pitches once a week and still saves games.

"It's easy when you have those opportunities at least five times a week. But he's going about his job better than anybody."

Jenks came into the weekend Minnesota series with 37 saves, trailing only Arizona's Jose Valverde (42), Cleveland's Joe Borowski and Milwaukee's Francisco Cordero (40 each) in all of baseball. These three closers, not to mention Seattle's J.J. Putz, who is tied with Jenks at 37, pitch for teams in prime playoff contention.

As for ERA, Jenks ranks 10th overall among closers with at least 25 saves and falls fifth in the American League with his 2.95 ERA in 60 appearances. Guillen pointed to Jenks' development from a hard thrower to a pitcher, mixing in his breaking ball and cutter, as a reason for Jenks' on-the-job growth.

The burly right-hander also spoke about a greater in-game focus on the upcoming work at hand as an additional reason for dominance.

"Knowing who I have coming up and if they pinch-hit, whose coming up following in that role," Jenks said. "[On Thursday], I knew I would face Sean Casey [in the ninth inning]. In the back of my mind, I knew what happened [Wednesday] and what Casey hit, a fastball away that came back over.

"So, I stayed hard in on him," Jenks added.

Casey came through with the game-tying hit off Jenks during the Tigers' ninth-inning rally at Comerica, a comeback leading to Jenks' sixth blown save in 43 chances. Jenks' progression in just two full years on the job, though, would indicate blown saves could be few and far between in the years to come.

"Every pitcher wants [to be dominant], obviously," Jenks said. "But you can't go into Spring Training and say, 'I'm going to be dominant and get everyone out.' I stick to my goals.

"What I set out to do in Spring Training is go out in non-save situations and innings I need work and be successful in those innings. The saves will come, but that was one thing I worked on big time, and I did a heck of a job in that area this year."

Contract chitchat: The truth finally can be revealed concerning Guillen's true desire for a new contract.

"I want a 10-year-deal, like a college [football] coach," said Guillen with a laugh.

A rumor began on Chicago radio earlier this week concerning the White Sox intention to sign Guillen past his 2009 club option after the present year was complete. Guillen denied any new deal was in the offing in Detroit and gave the same basic response Friday in his first appearance before the Chicago media since the rumor took hold.

"I don't even want to mention it to [general manager Ken Williams] because that's a slap on Kenny's face," Guillen said. "Maybe Kenny and [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] talk about it. Maybe they have a meeting to tell me how I'm not going to come back next year. I have a contract. I have one year and the option.

"If they have it in mind, it's great with me. Like I said, I want to manage this ballclub for as long as I can."

Guillen flew home on the team charter from Detroit with Williams and said they have talked about the team, but nothing has been said concerning his contract. Guillen quipped that he is excited about the future, after seeing the plans for the White Sox new Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz.

From the top? With Jim Thome entering Friday night's series opener against Minnesota still five home runs short of 500, and with only 21 games remaining after Friday, Guillen's idea to hit Thome leadoff and get him extra at-bats still might come to fruition before September comes to a close. Thome seemed amused and accepting of the plan.

"He's the man. Whatever he thinks," said Thome of Guillen. "It would be OK with me. It would be cool."

Practice makes perfect: During a Friday talk with Williams and Minor League director Alan Regier, Guillen and bench coach Joey Cora suggested Josh Fields make a short appearance during this fall's instructional league in Arizona in order to hone his craft in left field. Guillen said the idea had not been broached with Fields and was far from a certainty.

"Hey, this kid was playing third base Saturday, and Sunday he's in the outfield," said Guillen of Fields' overnight position switch. "It's better for him to get better in the outfield. It doesn't mean he's going to be our left fielder [in 2008], but be prepared just in case that's the scenario."

Around the horn: Jermaine Dye was scheduled to take part in pregame baseball activities Friday for the first time since straining his left groin in Detroit on Tuesday. But threat of rain cut short the White Sox batting practice, which means Dye's return could be moved back a day or two. ... Starting pitchers for the White Sox have produced a 2-0 record and 1.01 ERA over the last four games and have eight quality starts and a 2.51 ERA in their last nine trips to the mound. ... Guillen's crew has a 5-3-1 record in its last nine series against the American League Central, posting a 17-13 record during that span. ... Ten of the White Sox 30 active players on the roster began the 2007 season with Triple-A Charlotte.

Down on the farm: The White Sox appear to be developing a solid trio of hitters for the future, judging by statistics produced by Brandon Allen, Chris Carter and John Shelby for Class A Kannapolis this season. Allen ranked second in the South Atlantic League with 62 extra-base hits, including 39 doubles, and was tied with Carter for third in RBIs with 93. Carter finished third in home runs at 25 and Shelby was tied for second with nine triples and sat third with 60 extra-base hits.

On deck: After losing nine straight decisions as a starter, Jose Contreras (8-16, 5.86) looks for his third consecutive victory in the rotation during Saturday afternoon's game on FOX at 2:55 p.m. CT. Contreras remains tied with St. Louis Kip Wells for the most losses in baseball.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.