Said Contreras, "I never doubted my skills. If I had, I don't think I'd be in the position I am now."
In Game 1 of the Division Series, Contreras pitched into the eighth inning of a 14-2 win with what Boston's Johnny Damon called "the best stuff we've seen all year."
Said Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "Typical Jose game: no walks, a bunch of ground balls and lots of bad swings."
Four-and-a-half months after he traded for Contreras, Williams saw that the Angels had dropped Jenks from their 40-man roster. Jenks was a minor league legend because of how hard he threw--and lived. In five years in the minors Jenks had frustrated the Angels with wildness, injuries, his weight, an 18-29 record and what one club source described as "several acts of insubordination."
Jenks, 24, who is 6' 3" and 270 pounds, threw so hard that his elbow was cracking apart from the stress. The injury put him on the disabled list three times in 2003 and '04, until in July of last year doctors inserted a permanent screw to keep the fractures from spreading. The Angels shipped him to their minor league camp for rehabilitation but soon sent him home after he was involved in a fight with another player. Shortly thereafter Jenks was removed from the 40-man roster, and Williams claimed him from L.A. for the $20,000 waiver price.
Called up in July when closer Dustin Hermanson was limited by a back injury, Jenks pitched so well and so confidently that Guillen elevated him to the closer's role down the stretch. Jenks nailed down six outs to save a 5-4 win in Game 2 against the Red Sox and needed only seven pitches to get the last three outs of the 5-3 clincher.
"I'm not surprised," said Angels first baseman Darin Erstad. "He always had an arm of gold. He just figured it out."
Meanwhile, Jenks said he has settled into a family life with his wife, Adele, whom he met at a drive-through restaurant after his first professional season, and their two children. Said Jenks, who admitted after Game 2 that he is "guarded" when it comes to discussing his past, "I've figured out what not to do."
Ever resourceful, the White Sox have played 95 games this year decided by one or two runs, winning 61 of them. The tobacco-scented smoke had yet to clear from the last one when Jenks marveled at his journey.
"Where I was last year, I never thought this is where I was going to be in a year. It's almost unreal," he said. "I have one word for my wife and my kids: grounded. Now I know where I'm heading: all the way to the top."