Jenks staying positive after two back surgeries

Jenks staying positive after two back surgeries

Jenks staying positive after two back surgeries
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At the time of year when most players feel rejuvenation and excitement at the prospect of getting ready for another season, Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks is literally just getting back on his feet again.

He has been through an ordeal nobody really imagines.

Last season -- his first season with Boston -- was tough enough for Jenks. The righty didn't pitch well, and he then developed one baseball injury after another and had the harsh scare of a pulmonary embolism.

The blood clot that developed last summer forced Jenks to delay back surgery until Dec. 12. But in a cruel twist of fate, that procedure went way off track, and Jenks, after developing an infection in his spine, was right back on the operating table 18 days later.

"I went in, had that fixed and have been pretty much laid up for the last two months," Jenks said.

As if the pulmonary embolism from 2011 wasn't enough to jar Jenks, there were more complications that transcend what an athlete usually goes through while trying to overcome an injury.

The plan for the initial surgery, performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, was to remove bone spurs from his spine.

"I don't know whose fault it was, but there was an error done inside. ... I had four bone spurs basically on my spine, and we had talked about taking the top two out and the third one was started and not finished, so basically there was like a serrated edge," said Jenks.

"It sliced me open in two different spots and I was leaking spinal fluid, and it just pulled up the bottom of my incision and just kind of blew up on me, which caused an infection that climbed up that incision wound, so now I had an infection in my spine. It was just kind of a combination of everything that could have gone wrong went wrong."

Following the first surgery, Jenks had headaches that probably made a migraine seem mild.

At that point, back at his home in Arizona, he got medical attention in time to prevent his condition from getting a lot more severe or -- worse yet -- fatal.

"After the first procedure, he stayed in Boston for a short amount of time," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He returned to Phoenix and appeared to be recovering, and then he had increased symptoms and was in touch with our medical staff, and that's when we had him seen again in Phoenix. That's when it was determined he needed a second procedure. The second procedure seems to have resolved the issue, and now he's in recovery and understandably frustrated that he's not further ahead. But we still feel he can help us this year."

Almost immediately after seeing doctors, Jenks had his follow-up surgery performed on Dec. 30.

"Yeah, if I didn't have it done immediately, the infection could have gotten into my spinal fluid and up to my brain, and who knows what happens then. Obviously I could not be here right now," Jenks said.

Jenks has already been placed on the 60-day disabled list and will be rehabbing in Fort Myers until June.

"He had a difficult year and difficult offseason, and he's frustrated by where he is physically," said Cherington. "He is making progress and has made progress even in the last few weeks. We're going to do whatever we can to help him get back to pitching, and we remain hopeful that he can help us this year. It was a difficult ordeal for him last season and over the offseason."

After signing a two-year, $12 million contract to come to Boston in December 2010, Jenks could never have imagined all that would ensue.

"[It's] so frustrating," Jenks said. "Obviously coming here, I never expected to have a season like this. I just feel bad that coming here as a free agent, choosing to come here, wanting to come here, and this is what the team is getting from me right now. This is just disappointing and frustrating."

One silver lining for Jenks is that he has lost a ton of weight from cardio work -- something that should help him once he gets back on the mound.

It looks like Jenks might have lost 30 to 40 pounds, but he didn't divulge a number.

"Enough," Jenks said. "Basically from the middle of last season until December, I had nothing to do but work out, so that's all I did. I popped a movie on during the winter for the kids and would just sit behind the couch and ride the bike all day."

So picking up a baseball -- which used to feel as natural as riding a bike to Jenks -- is something he hasn't been able to do for months.

"The worst part about it was having the two surgeries so close together," Jenks said. "Everything was still barely healing and we had to slice through it all open again. The second one was just very, very painful, and that's why I got laid up for so much longer the second time. After the first one, at the two-and-a-half week mark, I was feeling great. I was on track to where I was supposed to be. And then that happened. The second one, my muscles were just so torn open that I was basically laid up in bed and just couldn't function."

Now he is easing back into being a baseball player again.

"Right now? I'm just basically trying to get my motion back," said Jenks. "I'm working on trying to strengthen up the muscles around the incision. [I'm doing] just very tedious, light stuff right now."

Jenks is hoping that the second surgery was successful and that baseball can once again be a big focus in his life.

"I've got to stay strong and positive right now," said Jenks. "Mentally, I'm still very strong and willing and hopeful to make sure I am back at that level."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.