He says his chances of ever taking the mound again are a flip of the coin, but he won’t be deterred by the 50-50 odds.
"Because I’m not looking at the long-term goal, because that is so far down the road, anything can happen from then and there," he said Friday from SoxFest, to which he was invited as a special guest. "I’m living each day moment to moment, day to day. Whatever happens in those days will change the outcome in a positive or negative way, so I look at each moment, each day and each exercise that I have to do to get to the end of the road. It’s about today first, though."
If some of that sounds like the mantra of a former addict, there is a reason for that. Jenks’ well-documented battles with alcohol cost him a spot in the Los Angeles Angels' organization, allowing for a waiver pickup by the White Sox. After one of the back surgeries he underwent while with the Boston Red Sox, Jenks admitted he became addicted to a pain medication.
Living in Southern California now, he said he has been clean and sober for more than a year as he recovers from a third back surgery. The surgeries, and some complications that followed, stemmed from four bone growths on the inside of his spine, which had been causing painful irritation.
Jenks was walking extremely upright Friday and appeared to move cautiously. He is no longer wearing a back brace or using a walker, however -- aids he needed when he was first allowed out of bed following the procedure.
Jenks said recovery typically takes six months to a year, and when that is complete he’ll know more about his chances of pitching in the major leagues again.
"I don’t want to label anything or set anything out there where I might eat my words later, but when I get through this physical therapy and I’m healthy enough, I’m going to give it a try," said Jenks, now 32. "If I’m unable to, I will be able to walk away knowing I did everything I could. And even if it wasn’t on my terms, there’s nothing that I did that I could have changed anything in the first place. I would be OK with that."
Introduced to the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the team’s annual fan convention, Jenks received one of the largest ovations among current and former players.
"It’s one of those things that it touches me right in my heart," he said of the love from fans. "I’ve said it before, when I think of baseball, it’s Chicago baseball, because this is my home. It’s my home away from home, and that’s the way it was when I was first here. I was accepted, and there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that has been a bad day here."
With those kind of feelings for the city and his former team, it’s obvious that if Jenks is able to make a return to the major leagues, he hopes it’s with the White Sox.
"In a perfect world, that is exactly what’s going to happen," he said. "But in a realistic world, any opportunity, if that came, I’m going to be just as grateful."