One thing I hate when browsing my feed reader is seeing nothing but apologies for lack of posting, so you won't find that here. I'll offer no apology for being too busy enjoying a wedding or a gorgeous holiday weekend. But the Sox, and the rest of the AL Central, haven't sat still in my absence, so rather than a game recap, I thought I'd just give a brief roundup on the last couple of weeks.
Jenks' Back Issues
Bobby Jenks hasn't pitched since June 28th, went for an MRI on his upper back, and although he was given a thumbs up, he might not be available for the first-half closing road trip. He wasn't exactly in top form over the last month, with just one 1-2-3 inning in his last 12 outings. And while the bullpen has hasn't been spectacular in Jenks' absence, with Scott Linebrink struggling, in particular, I'm not in any hurry for him to come back.
The first and most obvious reason is that I want a 100% healthy Jenks, not 85% or 95%, but 100%. And if that means a trip to the DL, so be it. (Remember we suffered through a 2006 season when seemingly everyone in the rotation could have used a break, and we know how that turned out.) Another reason is Matt Thornton, who has allowed just 12 hits while striking out 24 in his last 21 appearances.
Thornton would be my choice to close out games right now. I don't but much into the theory that there are guys who can pitch in high leverage 8th innings situations but can't hack it in the 9th, but it remove two guys who haven't exactly had success in their brief stints as closers. Linebrink has actually expressed a desire to stay out of that role. I've probably put too much time writing about this already, so I'll just stop now.
The Konerko Kwandry
In addition the Jenks/bullpen mess, Paul Konerko could be coming off the DL any day now. While conventional wisdom seems to be that his return will hasten the trade of Juan Uribe, I'd bet that the Sox would just as soon put Bobby on the DL and avoid rushed decision if Jenks is out much longer. Jenks will be eligible to be back after the All-Star break, giving the Sox extra time to make there roster decisions.
If Jenks returns to bullpen duty as usual, the roster crunch could get more complicated, which is another reason I don't think they should rush him back. Either Pablo Ozuna or Dewayne Wise could be DFAd, because nobody will bother to claim them, or Brian Anderson could be optioned, or Uribe could be gone to the Dodgers or Orioles.
As poorly as Uribe has played over the last two plus seasons, I have a hard time believing the Sox are a better team without him on the bench. Uribe, a quality glove man, is Sox best backup at 3 positions, even though he's only used at two of them, and offers some unusual pop for a bench middle-infield bat. And removing him from the roster would leave Ozuna as the primary backup at 2B, 3B, and I assume SS. Chris Getz, who has seen time at short in Charlotte this season, is only a phone call away, but that seems like a really thin infield, pun intended, if Uribe's no longer around.
Individually, I can understand why each player on the Sox Major League best pitching staff was left off the roster, but it's hard to figure out how that happens. The staff has combined for the lowest ERA in baseball while playing in a high run-scoring environment. How does everyone get left at home?
There's still the opportunity for the Sox to add one more with Jermaine Dye on the 32nd man ballot, but I think his road will be tougher than Scott Podsednik and AJ Pierzynski in front of him. In those elections, the Sox were able to Get Out The Vote thanks in large part to home series during the balloting. This meant a constant reminder in the form of a backstop graphic, and a stream of interviews in the booth and shots of teammates voting in the dugout. Those efforts will be considerably harder while on the road. So even though JD's only real competition is Jason Giambi, I don't expect him to make it.
Those Pesky Twins
I'm not a scoreboard watcher. I'm of the mind that if you take care of the opponents on your schedule, you won't have to worry about the rest of the division. Still, it's hard to ignore a 16-2 run.
The Twins started by beating up on the NL Central, and have continued to do the same this week sagainst the AL Central also-rans. I think it goes without saying that the Twins aren't going to continue to lose only 2 games every 3 weeks, but they're not be taken lightly. It's going to take more than 90 wins to take the division now. The good news is that 91 wins is 20 games over, and the Sox sit at 14 over right now.
The Sox have a soft schedule until they travel to Detroit and Minnesota in late July, which gives them another opportunity to gain some breathing room, and possibly creep towards that 20-over number. Maybe I'll start worrying about the nightly division standings then, but I doubt it.