By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
BUFFALO, NY – Chad Jenkins – Toronto Blue Jays, Buffalo Bisons, starter, reliever, traveller, heavy packer.
You may remember the 27-year-old right-handed pitcher from such appearances as his six-inning relief outing to finish out the longest game in Blue Jays history, or perhaps most recently from the incident that ended his season last year, when he broke his pitching hand during batting practice in September.
Those were the two moments that stood out for Jenkins among an up-and-down 2014 season – using the phrase mostly literally of course – the first highlighting his experiences and the latter marking the lowest point of his year.
Toronto’s matchup on Aug. 10 against the Detroit Tigers last year broke the club’s previously-set duration standards for innings and time, lasting 19 frames and six hours and 36 minutes. Jenkins was the last man standing in the bullpen, and came on in relief of Casey Janssen in the top of the 14th with no end in sight. He threw 73 pitches before Jose Bautista singled home Munenori Kawasaki from third base and to give Jenkins the victory.
“The 19-inning game was a lot of fun because [first of all], I just got to be a part of it,” the native of Chattanooga, Tenn., said. “I mean everybody was a part of it; we used everybody, but it was fun because it’s history.
“I remember the game started at one o’clock and I was thinking [about] going to Seattle [right afterward] because I had never been and I couldn’t wait to go. Then eight hours later I’m in the clubhouse and it was incredible. I was standing there talking to the media and thinking what did I just go through?
“You can’t describe it, as much as I would like to … It was incredible that people were still here. If I was at a sporting event and it went that long, I’m not going to lie, I might leave. I’m leaving, I don’t want to do it; it’s just too much.”
Excited early in the day about heading on the road with the team to the west coast, by the time Jenkins made it back to his locker in the Blue Jays clubhouse that night, amidst his amazement he had convinced himself that he wasn’t going to get anywhere near Seattle for the three-game series against the Mariners.
“Once I was the last one [in the bullpen], I knew my ticket was written,” he said. “I was signing my own [customs form] to go across the border to Buffalo. [I thought,] I’m getting sent down … but it was so incredible that I was standing there thinking, if [manager John Gibbons] comes and gets me, I don’t even care.
“I was a part of it, it was incredible, it was fun, it was awesome, and there were still thousands of people sitting there. Honest to goodness, it was amazing.”
Jenkins wasn’t demoted, he pitched five days later in Chicago working 2 2/3 innings and then was sent to Buffalo.
Less than a month later, the season came to a grinding halt for Jenkins. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound righty had posted a 4.70 mark over 21 games and 44 innings with the Bisons in the International League, and bettered his numbers to the tune of a 2.56 ERA over 21 games and 32 1/3 frames with the Blue Jays in the majors when he fractured his right hand during pre-game batting practice.
“The lowlight was breaking my hand,” Jenkins said. “That was just beyond frustrating because I feel like in the big leagues I had a good year. I mean, I had a good year [in Buffalo] too, but that was my last stop and I just [couldn’t] fix it.”
Though his injury was tough to come to terms with, the former first-round pick out of Kennesaw State University called the surgery, “nice and easy.” Well, it was after he was finally able to make his way out of his hospital room.
“The hardest part for me from surgery was when I woke up and didn’t have my glasses on,” Jenkins said. “I’m blind if I don’t have corrective lenses. I woke up and opened my eyes and the nurse asked, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘I’m going to throw up on you unless you find my glasses real quick, because I get super dizzy and nauseous if I don’t have my glasses on.’ She took off running and 20 minutes later I’m still sitting there with my eyes closed, half drugged, thinking, ‘Please help.’
“My mom was running all throughout Cleveland Clinic and they found my glasses, but other than that it’s been good. I spent two weeks with stitches in, went back to Atlanta, got the stitches out, and then went to Florida in October and played with Play-Doh for three weeks. It’s been good since. I can bend my fingers, everything works, and I have a nice little scar.”
He also has three permanent screws in his throwing hand, courtesy of that fateful batting practice accident.
“Everybody asks me what it’s like going through the airport with the screws,” Jenkins said. “Honestly, I get checked more because of my belt buckle, when I forget to take my belt off, than I do my hand…I had surgery when I was younger, in my leg, and I have a scar there now but I don’t even know it’s there. This is just one of those things.”
After recovering and spending a lot of the rest of his off-season in the woods hunting deer – getting six to bring home – before attempting to take down some ducks, Jenkins finding more trouble with the birds and deeming them, “magical” because, “I can’t seem to hit one,” the is ready for what the upcoming season will bring.
“I’d like to not get sent up and down seven times,” he said. “But I can’t control that … I just want to get out there.”