Foulke: I'm done for season
Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke said today that he will not pitch for the rest of the season, confirming that his surgically repaired left knee is not nearly 100 percent.
On his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio station WEEI, Foulke said he told manager Terry Francona he either needed stronger medicine to get over the pain in the knee, or they had to consider shutting him down for the season.
"The thing that I experienced the last couple of times that I threw is where, after I pitch is my shoulder starts to bother me and obviously the other option was, we call this year, we can just write this year off and start getting ready for next year, Foulke said.
The reliever said the knee was affecting his delivery, forcing him to tinker with his mechanics.
"The one thing that really bothered my knee is the pitching mechanics, where (Dr. Gill) went in there and shaved that bone down to smooth it out, Foulke said, and until that bone heals, the point of contact where I have the most pain is right at the crucial part of my delivery, so I was having to change my mechanics to try to shorten my stride to compensate for the knee and in turn my shoulder started bothering me, and that's one thing that really concerned us.
Foulke explained to the radio audience how he was feeling during his rehab and in his September appearances.
"When I first came back, my mechanics were horrible, when I was rehabbing my knee was feeling incredible. It felt like the pain was gone, Foulke said. It was one of those things when I started going back to the pitching motion, and it slowly started to digress everyday that I would pitch and it would bother me for two or three days, then it would go away and I could throw again.
Then after the month of September after throwing the last couple of times, my knee was starting to ache real bad, my shoulder was starting to ache, it just came to a point in the last week and a half that you gotta be real with yourself, do what's best for the team, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and demand to pitch and cost the team in a tight race."
The reliever made the comments from Phoenix, where he said he is receiving a second opinion on the knee. Foulke flew to Boston to be reevaluated by team physician Thomas Gill yesterday afternoon.
Foulke also laid out his plan for the offseason, which he said will include surgery on his right knee.
Let my knee heal, have surgery on my other knee and get ready for '06, he said. After talking to Theo, the whole coaching staff, we just decided that we'll go ahead and shut it down for this year and get healthy, get right, and get ready to go in '06."
The decision to leave the club, at the start of a critical three-game series in Baltimore, was made, his agent Dan Horwits said, after Foulke met with general manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, and the team's training staff during the Tampa Bay trip, with Gill participating by phone.
In all reality I probably wasn't going to be able to help the team win this year anyway with the lack of pitching, not feeling 100 percent, we just tried to make a decision where I'll be ready to go in '06," Foulke said today.
''He's just not healthy," said Horwits, who spoke with Foulke 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 of more days."
Horwits said he was not sure which doctors Foulke intended to consult for other assessments but indicated 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, who missed eight weeks, returning Sept. 1, never regained his role as closer, nor did he rediscover enough command or confidence to suggest he had any shot at closing again this season. He received only one opportunity to pitch with a lead in six September appearances, struggled in mop-up duty, and wasn't in line to make the postseason roster.
Foulke, in 37 games (39 innings pitched) before surgery, was 5-5 with a 6.23 ERA, 15 saves, 4 blown saves, and allowed 8 home runs. In six games (6 2/3 IP) since surgery, he was 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA. That, for the season, amounts to a 5-5 record and 5.91 ERA, ending a personal stretch of six consecutive seasons with an ERA of 2.97 or lower.
In fact, between the beginning of the 1999 season and the end of 2004, Foulke was 26-21 in the regular season with a 2.43 ERA and 171 saves. Mariano Rivera, by comparison, was 25-21 in that span with 252 saves and a 2.20 ERA.
But Foulke struggled all season with health and personal issues, hinting at the latter but never offering specifics. During his rehab, in August, he acknowledged that he regretted not having left knee surgery in spring training. In August, he also said that arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, coupled with an offseason to clear his mind, would allow him to come back next spring with the chance to be the pitcher he once was.
The Sox have to hope so. Foulke, who turns 33 next month, is making $7 million this season and will make $7.25 million next year. The Sox hold a $7.5 million club option for 2007 with a $1.5 million buyout. Foulke has a $3.75 million player option. The buyout is guaranteed, unless the option vests.
The team option vests if Foulke finishes a combined 95 games in 2005 and 2006. He finished just 37 this season, though he finished 61 for the Sox last season. The 2007 team option also becomes Foulke's at $7.75 million if he finishes in the top five in the Cy Young Award voting next season.
Foulke, on the radio and to beat reporters, has conveyed an eagerness for the season to end. After a stellar 2004 postseason -- he allowed one run in 14 innings -- Foulke has projected a dour imagine almost from Day 1 this season.
His struggles began the second day of the season -- when Derek Jeter homered off him to win a game in New York-- and reached its zenith July 4, when he blew a save at Texas and landed on the operating table three days later.
Foulke felt so bothered by fan and media attention this year he told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter a week ago he intends to move out of the city of Boston before next season.
Information from the Globes Gordon Edes and Chris Snow was used in this report.