ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Red Sox closer Keith Foulke will leave the team and return to Boston to determine if a knee problem is the cause of his struggles. The disabled list is a possibility, manager Terry Francona said.

“We think there’s a chance, but we want to let it run its course,” Francona said before Tuesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers. “He’ll never turn the ball down. He’ll take the ball every day. So I need to step in and say, No, you won’t. We’re going to get you looked at.’ And I think he’s OK with that. I think he actually appreciated it.”

Foulke took the loss Monday night when the Rangers scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to beat Boston 6-5. It was the fourth blown save of the season and his second in a week; he is 5-5 with a 6.23 ERA and 15 saves this season after a dominant postseason last year.

Foulke will fly to Boston on Wednesday and have MRI exams on both knees, Francona said.

“I’ve had extensive talks with him, talks with (general manager Theo Epstein), talks with our medical people,” Francona said. “This is a tough one. We’re having a tough time. He’s battling the knee, he feels responsible to pitch. But he’s not pitching with the effectiveness we want or need. So I kind of took it out of his hands a little bit.”

Foulke was not available in the clubhouse before Tuesday’s game. He also left after Monday night’s game without talking to reporters.

But after being booed off the field at Fenway Park following a ninth-inning grand slam by Cleveland last week, he said, “I’ve always said the hardest thing is to come in here and face my teammates (rather) than worry about Johnny from Burger King booing me.”

On Wednesday, the Boston Herald called him “condescending” and ran a back-page headline: “Flame-broiled. Foulke burned in 9th as Sox suffer Whopper of a loss.”

The Red Sox signed Foulke in the wake of their meltdown in Yankee Stadium in the 2003 playoffs, giving him a contract that could pay him $26.5 million over four seasons. He earned it last year, when he was 5-3 with 32 saves and a 2.17 ERA, closing out all four games when Boston swept St. Louis for its first World Series title since 1918.

Francona said Foulke’s left knee has been bothering him “for years. For a while.”

“I do think his right knee is starting to hurt also because he’s favoring it,” Francona said. “If he gets it checked and he’s OK, good. Missing one day of the season is not the end.”

Until Foulke gets straightened out, the Red Sox will be forced to shuffle their bullpen.

“We’ve always felt with the game on the line, we want Foulke, (Alan) Embree, (Mike) Timlin,” Francona said. “I still feel that way. We’ve just lost one of our main guys so we’ll continue to do that.”


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