Chad Jenkins knew the way, his driver did not
* Blue Jays former No. 1 pick Chad Jenkins was promoted yet again -- this time making the flight from triple-A Buffalo to Houston. He's been promoted so often he knows the routes, but there was this one Pittsburgh-Buffalo limo drive where the driver wound up lost on a two-lane road. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
BUFFALO, NY – Chad Jenkins has options.
Because of those options, the 26-year-old right-hander is not a player the Toronto Blue Jays risk losing upon shuttling him between the big leagues and the triple-A Buffalo Bisons roster. That fact, along with the success he’s found at both levels, have made him an attractive player to move on several occasions this year.
“Me and my suitcase are best friends,” Jenkins said. “It holds my entire life, and it’s got quite a few miles underneath it. It’s tough. It’s a new place probably once a month, I find myself somewhere.”
Before Toronto recalled Jenkins for officially the fourth time this season on Thursday afternoon, the righty had just settled into the Bisons bullpen after being with the Blue Jays for an extended period of time through June and early July.
“It’s nice right now,” he said in Buffalo. “Rob [Rasmussen] has been going up and down some as well and we live together here. I got an apartment in Toronto when I was up there last time, so we kind of just flip flop ... I’m in the one here obviously now and Rob’s at the one in Toronto. It’s actually worked out pretty well, but it’s been a weird year.”
The two have flip-flopped once again, with Rasmussen optioned back to the International League on Tuesday and Jenkins heading to meet the major league team in Houston for a series against the Astros. It seems unlikely that Jenkins was expecting anything to happy so quickly, though he’s made a conscious effort this year to try and steer clear of any expectations.
“Last year I got bit by it, I guess you could say,” Jenkins said of waiting for the call. “They told me I’d come back up in 10 days and then I was here [in Buffalo] for a month-and-a-half. That one hurt. For me now it’s just wherever I’m at, I try to enjoy it. That makes life easier. I’m over trying to figure out who’s going where and when it’s going to happen. I gave up on that pipe dream years ago.
“Right now it’s just a good group here. We’re winning right now, which is nice, we’re playing well and it’s fun here. The big league club is doing well right now too so I’m sure they’re having a blast but I just try to enjoy my time wherever I’m at.”
Out of spring training, Jenkins was sent to Buffalo. Just four days into the season, the Blue Jays tried to recall the Tennessee-born pitcher but were unable since he had not been in the minors for 10 days and the Jays were not making the move due to an injury.
“That was actually pretty funny,” Jenkins said. “They called me up and they said, ‘Hey, you’re going up.’ I thought, I need to pack. So I packed all my stuff, got ready, woke up the next morning, finished packing my toiletry kit and stuff, and my phone rings.
“They said, ‘Hey. Sorry. Cant go.’ I thought, okay well I better hurry so I don’t miss the bus to Rochester. So I made a five-day road trip with every bit of clothing that I had.”
But that was just the beginning.
Jenkins, who has a 3.72 ERA through 19 1/3 innings in the big leagues and a 4.05 mark in 40 innings with the Bisons, made his season debut with the big club on April 26, then was sent down two appearances and less than two weeks later, with an interesting experience during the team’s series against the Pittsburgh Pirates during that time.
“The toughest one I did was Pittsburgh,” Jenkins said of his trips. “We went from Kansas City to Pittsburgh, I got sent down, took a four-hour car service back here, and the guy got lost. I fell asleep and I woke up and I’m on a one-lane road in the middle of Pennsylvania.
“I thought, dude we’re not doing this; something’s not right here, get me home. I [said], ‘You’re not going the right way. I can tell you right now we shouldn’t be off the highway. Please find the highway.’ It was so weird. I think he just bought this new phone ... and I could see in the front seat he was [having so much trouble with it] that it was like one word on the entire screen. I thought, I’m going to die.
“Then I got [to Buffalo] at like eight o’clock, went to the apartment, hung out, woke up the next morning, came here, threw, got back in [the clubhouse] and they said, ‘Hey you’re going back.’ I said, ‘Please not the same driver; anything but the same driver.’ So I took a four-hour car service back to Pittsburgh and that was the weirdest one I’ve had so far.”
While that transaction isn’t officially listed among Buffalo’s modern-era franchise record year of moves, the corresponding one is there. Toronto recalled backup catcher Erik Kratz – another player with options – during that same series, and the two ended up sharing the same driver.
“Chad actually got sent back when I went [there],” Kratz said. “I went to Pittsburgh and he got sent back in the car I took. Both of us got lost both ways. That was bad ... [the driver] got lost going down, he had a GPS and his phone going and he didn’t follow either of them. His phone would ring and he would look down at it and [swerve] off the road. That’s all part of it.”
So, that trip wasn’t ideal. But the last time Jenkins left Toronto it was the best travel adventure he’d ever had, flying out of City Centre Airport on Toronto Island and meeting the Bisons in Pawtucket, R.I. to face the Red Sox.
“My last time out, I flew out on Porter [Airlines],” Jenkins said. “That was awesome. That was the greatest airport experience I’ve ever had. I took a ferry to get to the airport, and security was all of 30 seconds. Then I got to the airport lounge and everything was free ... it was unbelievable.”
And he’s been able to keep track of all of his belongings every time.
“I’ve never had a problem with [losing] luggage on flights,” Jenkins said. “But I have an article of something everywhere I’ve been, I feel like. I have a suitcase in Toronto and when I got back to the apartment here I had a bag full of stuff here. I thought, it’s going to be hard to get all of it home but I’ll find a way somehow.”
With all of the moving, has Jenkins become a better packer?
“No, it hasn’t gotten any better,” he said.
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis