With each setback that he had, it seemed less and less likely that Bobby Jenks was going to offer much to the Red Sox down the stretch or in the playoffs. That small chance to contribute has now been completely washed away.
Jenks will be shut down for the rest of the season due to lingering back issues, Terry Francona told reporters Monday in Toronto.
The right-handed reliever, signed this offseason to a two-year contract worth $12 million, has not pitched for two months. He went on the disabled list for the third time this season on July 16 (retroactive to July 8) with left back tightness and has been unable to get much going in the way of a recovery.
Jenks was sent to Fort Myers last month to throw a simulated game, which he did, and then to set his sights on a minor league rehab. However, a stomach illness hit him hard just as he was about to embark on that leg of the mission. Jenks lost a lot of weight and eventually returned to Boston to rest, the back still bothering him a bit.
Francona said that there simply wasn't enough time to get Jenks ready by the end of the regular season.
Jenks appeared in only 19 games this season and just nine since the end of April, so the club got pretty used to working without him. However, his lack of presence is one contributing factor in a bullpen that suddenly finds itself in scramble mode as it tries to fill in the gaps in front of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Matt Albers, whose phenomenal run earlier in the year made the Jenks absence insignificant, has fallen on hard times, sporting an ERA of 11.93 since the start of August. Dan Wheeler has pitched well for three months, but continues to get used in low-leverage situations. Alfredo Aceves remains a very good option, but he is so often needed to pick up the slack for a rotation that ranks 12th in the American League in innings per start (5.96).
That statistic might begin to look even worse very soon. Erik Bedard is being skipped in the rotation due to lingering left knee soreness and the club remains committed to a six-man rotation for now in order to keep guys like Josh Beckett rested. That means that the heart of the current seven-game road trip will see Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller and likely Kyle Weiland start three games in a row.
The workload on the bullpen has the potential to be rather hefty.
As for Jenks, he has one more year to try to make an impact in Boston. He will be 31 when the 2012 season starts and coming off back-to-back down years, both of which saw their fair share of injuries. At the very least, he will have something to prove.