Bobby Jenks was knocked down, not knocked out.
Jenks, the former Chicago White Sox closer who earned All-Star selections in 2006 and 2007, saw his career — and life — spiral out of control after joining the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2011 season. The burly right-hander isn’t ready to throw in the towel, though, and a return to the mound remains his ultimate goal.
“Mentally, I’m still 100 percent in the game,” Jenks recently told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Even if [a return] is only for a year or two, knowing I got through everything and conquered this part of my life and finish how I want to finish … .”
Jenks, who turns 33 in March, has undergone three back surgeries. He also beat an addiction to pain medication and battled depression. Jenks currently is rehabbing from spinal fusion surgery in which he had two plates and six screws inserted on Oct. 8.
Jenks, who twice saved 40 games for the White Sox, struggled in his final season in Chicago in 2010 but signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Red Sox the following offseason. The veteran’s tenure in Boston was anything but special, as he posted a 6.32 ERA in 19 appearances in 2011 before being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism that ended his season.
Jenks then had surgery in December 2011 to remove two of four bone spurs from his back. The surgeon started but didn’t finish removing a third spur, and the remaining sharp bone sliced Jenks, causing him to leak spinal fluid and ultimately resulting in an infection.
“Just exploded out from the incision,” Jenks told Merkin. “There was a chance that if I would have gone to bed that night, I wouldn’t have woken up.”
Things only got worse for Jenks, as he was arrested for driving under the influence in March 2012 and got hooked on the pain killers that he was taking to try to get back on the diamond. Jenks was released by the Red Sox in July 2012 without ever appearing in a game that season, and he hasn’t toed a big league rubber since.
“It was a disaster,” Jenks reportedly said with a laugh of his time in Boston. “The guys were great, but it was one thing after another.
“In that second week in, I tore my biceps. I got back and pitched, and my back kicked in. Then, I rehabbed my back in the minors and developed a blood clot in my lung. It was an absolute nightmare.”
There’s still a long road ahead for Jenks, who said that he has been clean and sober for 18 months. The normal recovery period following fusion surgery falls between six months and a year. But Jenks said that he’s pain free, and, perhaps more importantly, he’s in a good place mentally.
“I’m still here. It could have gone a lot worse,” Jenks told Merkin. “I could not be going back [to Chicago] on the 24th [of January for SoxFest], and some people would have never known what happened to me. Questions can be finally answered, and it’s important to my own psyche. I didn’t disappear and didn’t fall into pit of addiction. I climbed out of it, and I’m doing pretty well.”
The bell never rung, and Jenks slowly but surely is getting up off the mat.