Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke, who played such a vital role in the Red Sox run to a World Series title last season, is not expected to pitch again this season because of ongoing concerns with his left knee, his agent said today.
Foulke flew back to Boston to be re-evaluated by Red Sox team physician Thomas Gill this afternoon, but also plans to see other doctors, his Beverly Hills-based agent, Dan Horwits, said. The decision to leave the club, which is in Baltimore for the start of a critical three-game series with the Orioles, was made, Horwits said, after Foulke met in Florida during the Tampa Bay trip with GM Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, and the team's training staff, with Gill participating by phone.
Red Sox officials, responding to a report first aired by WEEI that Foulke was shutting it down for the season, announced that Foulke had returned to Boston to see Gill but beyond that, no decision had been made. But Horwits, speaking by phone from his Beverly Hills office, indicated that Foulke's knee has not improved since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on July 7.
"He's just not healthy,'' said Horwits, who spoke with Foulke on Wednesday. "Clearly, there's something wrong. For his knee to feel the same way it did before surgery, this long after the surgery, this obviously is not just a matter of giving it a couple more days.''
The pitcher's concern, Horwits said, is that by compensating for the knee pain, he could risk injuring his elbow or shoulder.
"His mechanics are off, his body is not feeling right,'' Horwits said. "It's just not getting better, so it makes sense to take care of it now.''
Horwits said he was not sure which doctors Foulke intended to see for other assessments, but indicated he thought another surgical procedure might be necessary. "If you ask me that question today, from what I'm hearing it looks like they'll have to go back in there,'' Horwits said.
Foulke currently has a 5.91 ERA and recently said he was looking forward to the offseason so he could be out of the Boston spotlight.
"After a while you get tired of hearing everybody's opinion on what you're doing wrong,'' Foulke said in a Sept. 17 San Francisco Chronicle article. "Last year it was, 'Glad you're here, glad to see you. Good luck this year, let's go. Bring it home for us.' Now this year so much is still thanking you for last year.
"People don't understand there's times when we want to be private. There's a lot of times people come up and they get in your business. ... It's one of the reasons that for next year I am relocating. I'm moving out of the city so I can be with myself a little more.''
Foulke has made six middle-relief appearances since coming off the disabled list in early September, giving up a total of three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings.
Foulke struggled out of the gate to begin the season, and after a blown save at Fenway at the end of June (he was booed as he left the field), he rankled many in Red Sox Nation with the following comments:
''Boos?" Foulke said. ''Of course I heard it. And I'm not inviting them [the fans] to my World Series celebration either. They have all the right. They can boo, they can cuss me and tell me I [stink]. Go ahead. If they don't want me to do the job, tell them to tell management. I've done a lot of good for this team but, you know, let them boo."
''Are they going to keep me from coming to the ballpark tomorrow? No. They're not going to make it any harder for me to go home and look in the mirror. I'm more embarrassed to walk into this locker room and look at the faces of my teammates than to walk out and see Johnny from Burger King booing me. I'm worried about these guys, not everybody else."
After having knee surgery in early July, Foulke confirmed that the Sox had recommended he have the surgery on the first day of spring training, and that he regretted he did not follow the club's advice.
''We talked seriously during physicals on the first day of spring training," Foulke said during a weekly paid appearance on WEEI in July. ''At the time, I felt strong and said, 'No, I don't want it.' Looking back, I wish we'd done it early."
His current numbers for 2005: 5-5, 5.91 ERA, 15 saves, four blown saves.