Red Sox

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

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.
 

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez sensed he was ready to bust out of his slump and give the Chicago Cubs the lift they needed.

As breakthroughs go, this was a big one. Just in time to keep the season going for the defending champs.

Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

"We have to be much more offensive," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

Baez finally got going with a pair of solo drives .

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to help the Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

"They're the world champs, and you know they're going to fight to the end," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "So today, they did. We got beat today."

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. He had been watching videos and felt his timing was starting to come back in recent trips to the plate.

"I just need to take a step back and see what's going on," he said.

Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley , who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

"Great to have this win, because if not we were going home tomorrow," Baez said. "But I feel like we're still not on track as a team. But I think if we get back on track, everybody as a team, we're going to be the best again."

Contreras' 491-foot homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez sent a towering drive out to left.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

"Hopefully, it's not a goodbye, it's a thank you, obviously," Arrieta said. "I still intend to have another start in this ballpark. If that's where it ends, I did my best and I left it all out there."

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

"The only frustrating thing is we fell a run short," Turner said. "We played a great game, they played a great game. They just hit one more ball over the fence than we did."

FINISHING UP

Maddon said Davis would not be available on Thursday.

"So other guys got to do it," Maddon said. "We have to be much more offensive. It's got to start happening tomorrow. We're going to do this. Going to pull this off, we have to become more offensive tomorrow."

QUOTABLE

Chicago's Kyle Schwarber on all the Cubs' runs coming on homers in the series: "That's fine. A run's a run, anyway you can get them in. Obviously, we want to manufacture some runs, but we won a ballgame 3-2 hitting homers; I'll take that, too."

UP NEXT

Dodgers: The Dodgers turn to Kershaw to try to wrap up the series. The three-time NL Cy Young winner went five innings in Game 1, allowing two runs, and has a 4.76 ERA in two postseason starts this year.

Cubs: Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball in Game 1, one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment.

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