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February 16, 2007

Foulke to retire

By Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff

It looks like Keith Foulke is going to get closer to his home in Arizona after all: The former Red Sox reliever is retiring.

"While we are disappointed that Keith will not be pitching for the Indians this year, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he went about this decision," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said in a report published today on the Indians website. "Keith clearly demonstrated a great deal of integrity and character in this matter, and we wish him success in his future endeavors."

According to the Indians website, Foulke arrived at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla. in time for Thursday's report date for pitchers and catchers, but by the early afternoon, Foulke had already informed Shapiro and manager Eric Wedge of his decision to retire.

According to the ESPN's Buster Olney, Indians club sources told him that Foulke had felt pain in his elbow in recent days.

The 34-year-old former Red Sox reliever had signed a one-year deal worth $5 million (plus incentives) with the Indians for the 2007 season.

He was expected to challenge Joe Borowski for the Indians closer job this season. "His physical was a pleasant surprise," Shapiro said when the Indians signed Foulke in January.

Foulke made $7.5 million with the Red Sox last season, but the team did not pick up his club option. Foulke then rejected a $5.25 million player option to stay in Boston.

"I know a lot of guys who say it isn't about the money, but Keith just backs that up,'' Foulke's agent Dan Horwits said in November. "He wants to pitch closer to home and hopefully he will have that chance."

Foulke had 32 saves in the 2004 World Series championship season, but his performance suffered in the last two season as he was bothered by a knee and elbow injuries. He went 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA for the Sox last year, with no saves in 44 games. He missed two months with elbow tendinitis.

Foulke spoke to the Globe's Amalie Benjamin about the possibility of retirement last September. "I might retire. I don't know. It's a big option," said Foulke. "If I can't have fun playing this game, if I don't have the motivation to prepare, you know, as far as strength and training and all that. I'm not going to be a middle bullpen, 5 ERA guy. Either I can come back and be a dominant pitcher, or I'll take it to the house."

"I got a lot of work to do," Foulke said as he prepared to enter this past offseason. "There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It's been a nasty little cycle with my knees for a couple of years, then my elbow started bothering me. Then I changed some stuff there, then my back started bothering me. It's been a bad circle. I can't go on like that. I don't want to be on the DL. I want to be out there, and I want to pitch in 85 ballgames a year, 100 innings. If I can get myself in shape to do that, then I'll come back. If I'm sitting around my house drinking beer, I'll take it to the house. I'll stay there."

Foulke lost some stature in the eyes of fans because of several flare-ups in Boston over the past two seasons. ''They're not going to make it any harder than it is for me to go home and look in the mirror," Foulke said about the booing that rained down from the Fenway stands in June 2005. "Like I've told you guys plenty of times, I'm more embarrassed to walk into this locker room and look at the faces of my teammates than I am to walk out and see Johnny from Burger King booing me. I'm worried about these guys, not everybody else."

(Updated 11:50 a.m.)

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