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Reading Room: SoxFest a stop on Bobby Jenks' road to recovery

Plus: The Cubs' first-ever mascot is poorly received, and a new approach to signing Masahiro Tanaka

Jonathan Daniel

Bobby Jenks was something of an eye-opening addition to the SoxFest lineup, for a few reasons.

No. 1: He didn't leave on the best terms, and not all that long ago.

No. 2: Although he hasn't pitched since 2011, he hasn't officially retired, so it's almost like inviting a free agent.

But more than these...

No. 3: I had no idea that he'd be in any shape to show up.

Jenks last appeared in the big leagues in 2011, throwing 15⅔ ugly innings in Boston. I almost used the word "disastrous," but that better sums up what happened after. He describes it to Scott Merkin in an article published Monday:

Once Jenks arrived in Boston, his back grew progressively worse. Four bone spurs were found on his spine and the plan was to go in and shave them off in December 2011.

A plan was set to actually shave off just two, but the surgeon started the third and didn't finish, leaving sharp bone in two different spots on Jenks' spine.

"It was like laying on your side and having a semi ride over the top of your head," Jenks said of the pain. He returned to his then-Arizona home following the surgery, sat down on his couch and said he felt a feeling like someone was pouring a bottle of water down his back.

That water was spinal fluid.

"Just exploded out from the incision," Jenks said. "There was a chance that if I would have gone to bed that night, I wouldn't have woken up."

On top of that, the second surgery had to contend with an infection that nearly reached his brain stem. On top of that, the intensifying back woes similarly escalated his addiction to painkillers, which had started during his final year with the White Sox, but reached a whole new level when the bone spurs started.

Jenks tells Merkin he's been clean for 18 months, which has helped him reconnect with his young children, although a divorce means he doesn't see them all the time. Now he says he's ready to reconnect with baseball, which starts with SoxFest. It took him a while to get over the nerves and accept the invitation, but his main concern -- booing and other negativity -- shouldn't be realized as long as there aren't any children of a former manager in attendance. Where he goes from there is a much bigger question, but here's hoping for the best.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

Yes, with the ink on one minor-league contract, the Reading Room returns! Consider the title of the South Side Sox link jamboree to be an indicator of Christian Marrero's status relative to the White Sox organization. He's back in the fold, so he's back on the site. It was nice to see a number of people, here and on Twitter, see the transaction listing and immediately wonder if Terrerobytes would revert back to its former title. The answer is, "Yes."

Mascots are not designed with grown-assed men and women in mind, so I felt some sympathy for the Cubs' attempt to launch Clark the Cub with only a couple of artistic renderings. The backwards cap brought Poochie the Dog to mind, but the fatigued expression in his eyes knocked his Fonzarelli quotient below 33 percent. The result: A torrent of mockery, even from Cubs fans. Maybe especially from Cubs fans.

After all the jokes subside, though, he'll probably end up being a hit with kids and gradually woven into the gameday experience, much like Southpaw, who nobody seems to mind. One lesson to learn from this: It's probably easier when your mascot is some sort of random creature. Putting a human face and name on an anthropomorphic bear makes it easier to have your own idea of what it's supposed to look like.

Jeff Sullivan consults The Pickup Artist's playbook to help the Mariners get ahead of Masahiro Tanaka's supposedly preferred destinations. The 10-step program includes:

For much of the first part of the meeting, the Mariners should all but ignore Masahiro Tanaka entirely. They should engage the others in conversation, and recite lighthearted, rehearsed storytelling to make them feel at ease. At one point Jack Zduriencik should take a phone call and say, "sorry, one minute, it’s Ervin’s agent." He should talk for at least 12 minutes.

When the Mariners do begin actually speaking with Tanaka himself, one of the things someone should say is, "seems like you have good stuff. Almost as good as Ubaldo’s."

Joe Posnanski is pretty much right about the "60 Minutes" segment on the Alex Rodriguez scandal. Besides making everybody involved seem more repulsive, the report really did a wonderful job of making performance-enhancing drugs look wonderful.