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Arms are getting all crossed up

There was Curt Schilling's poor outing in Tampa Bay Saturday. David Wells coming up lame Monday night against the Orioles. Alan Embree giving up a walkoff homer to Eduardo Perez last Friday in Tampa Bay. Matt Mantei twisting an ankle. Matt Clement getting torched for 12 hits and 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings last night.

And the topper: Keith Foulke continued to unravel, allowing a pair of two-run homers in the eighth inning last night that wiped out a one-run Red Sox lead and forged an 11-8 victory for the Orioles.

On the same day that Wells went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right foot, it would have been a major boost for the Sox' pitching staff for Foulke to make a statement.

If he had been able to close out the

Orioles, the Sox' pitching woes of recent days wouldn't stand out so much. But even Foulke, who hadn't pitched in four days, is at a loss to figure out the slow start. "I'm not happy," said Foulke. "It makes me want to pull my hair out."

The pitch Miguel Tejada hit for the first homer was low, but not too low for Foulke's former Oakland teammate to go down and get. This was Foulke's first blown save of the season, but he also gave up a walkoff homer to Derek Jeter and a game-winning hit to Toronto's Orlando Hudson. Even in a win over the Yankees April 14, Foulke struggled in a 53-pitch, two-inning performance.

Johnny Damon has a theory: "Everyone was saying that the Red Sox had [Mariano] Rivera's number. Keith has a lot of games against the American League East lately. We've got to figure this out. Hopefully he's not tipping his pitches."

Catcher Jason Varitek said he didn't want to point fingers, but he doesn't believe believes Foulke isn't is getting any breaks on borderline pitches.

Embree thinks everything will pan out for Foulke, likening his early-season slump to a hitter's slump, and "the numbers are what they usually are in the end."

On the starting side, it's time for others to step up in Wells's absence. That includes Clement.

"Even when you think you have too much, you don't have enough," said general manager Theo Epstein, who made it a point to acquire starting pitching depth in an offseason when he lost Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. "Two days ago, people might have looked at our staff and said, `How are we going to fit everyone in?' It's an annual ritual. You rely on your depth."

Just a few days ago, Bronson Arroyo appeared to be the odd man out, with Wade Miller progressing in his minor league rehab work. Now Arroyo is safe. Wouldn't it be ironic if he winds up making more starts than anyone else?

"As long as I've been around this game, you realize that funny things happen all the time," Arroyo said. "If I could stay healthy, I always thought I had a shot to stay in the big leagues because people get hurt so often. Obviously you never want a teammate to go down, but if [Wells] is out for six weeks, it's going to allow me to get at least 10 more starts in, which will take me close to the All-Star break and see what happens from there."

The Yankees, who lost Jaret Wright to an injury last week, are faced with a similar predicament, but the Red Sox appear to be better-equipped for it.

"This team is built to withstand those types of disruptions," said Schilling. "[Wells] is hurt so somebody else is going to have to pick up the slack. As a staff we have to pick it up. You dwell on it and you look up in June and you're 15 games out.

"If we don't win, it's not because we don't have David Wells in here. If we don't win, it's not going to be because we miss anyone for four or five or seven or 10 days or longer. That would be the case for anyone."

Maybe this is just one of those bad spells. To a man, the Sox feel it's just a blip. But it's one that must be dealt with in a hurry.

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