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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- How to describe Bobby Jenks? Picture a tattooed Amish farmer, some of my media colleagues suggested, and you start to get the picture.
Jenks arrived here in camp Sunday morning, whisk-broom beard intact, on the official reporting date for Red Sox pitchers and catchers, and declared no interest in a potential closer controversy with the incumbent, Jonathan Papelbon
"I didn't come here to step on anybody's toes," he said. "I know what my role is coming here. We've been friends, shoot, for many years. I don't think that's going to be a problem at all."
|Bobby Jenks says he doesn't have any problem pitching as a setup man after years as a closer. "I know what my role is," he said.|
When Jenks was told that Papelbon said he expects calls for Jenks the minute he blows a save or two, and was asked how he planned to handle that, he said:
"I think hopefully the best I can. If those questions come up, it's going to come down to a decision of the management. Whatever they think is best for the team. If that means whatever that means, they'll be doing it for their own reasons."
Jenks had been the White Sox closer almost from the minute he stepped on the scene in 2005. He had 41 saves in 2006, his first full season, then totals of 40, 30, 29 and 27.
Jenks had elbow inflammation at the end of last season, which was a "great concern" at the time. But he is satisfied that his arm is healthy entering the spring.
"The more doctors I've seen, the more MRIs, the more X-rays I got, the better I felt," he said. "I knew it was nothing serious, just a little tweak of the nerve. It's something where all I needed was rest. There's no question in anyone's mind that's all it was. It was a relief."
Jenks said Red Sox doctors checked him out again after the physical he took before signing and said they were "very pleased, knowing I'm at 100 percent."
Jenks, who stands 6-foot-4 and is listed at 275 pounds, has battled weight issues in the past, but says he has been working out with a trainer all winter. "I'm very strong," he said. "Right now, my arm feels great. At this point, it feels better than a little while."
Jenks refused to be drawn into a discussion of the disparaging comments made on Twitter by Oney Guillen, son of the White Sox manager, after Jenks was non-tendered by the White Sox and signed with Boston. The younger Guillen, upset that Jenks made a comment about his father not "handling" the bullpen after he was let go, referred to Jenks as a "yellow, beard-dipping idiot" who "cried in the manager's office" and had drinking and marital problems.
Ozzie Guillen later said he felt "bad" about Jenks' remarks, but said he was upset that his son had violated clubhouse privacy.
Asked what he thought of Oney's comments, Jenks said: "Obviously not much, since I haven't commented, and that's where I'm going to leave it. That's it. I mean, I'm not even going to go [there]."
No interest in setting up his own Twitter account? No, Jenks said. "I don't need to get in a battle of words," he said. "He had his moment and that was it."
Jenks struggled last season, posting a career-high 4.44 ERA. With his 2010 salary at $7.5 million, the White Sox elected to non-tender him rather than risk going to salary arbitration and potentially being required to pay him in the neighborhood of $9 million to $10 million. The Red Sox signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal.
Jenks downplayed the notion that his parting from the White Sox gave him added incentive to prove them wrong.
"Yes and no," he said. "Everyone might have that a little bit at first, but the more I thought about it, it comes down to it's business. As a player, it's easy to get hurt that they don't want you, but it has nothing to do with that. It was what they thought was best for the team at the time and that's basically the way you have to look at it."
Did he have the sense that Guillen had lost confidence in him?
"I don't know," he said. "I don't want to go into that. I'm going to just let that whole situation just completely die down. If he did, they were his own feelings. I'm here now. I'm excited about this new chance."
Jenks said he had a chance to close for several other clubs (one of which was believed to be Tampa Bay).
"It wasn't a matter of money or years," he said. "That had nothing to do with my decision to come here. I wanted to come here and play baseball for the Red Sox, and I got that opportunity and I jumped on it."
He looked incredulous when someone asked why.
"It's the Red Sox," he said. "I don't want to go into the Red Sox-Yankee battle just yet, but I'd rather be a Red Sox for sure."
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.