BOSTON – Keith Foulke could have stayed with the Oakland A’s. A top-notch closer, the righthander could have played for a perennial contender and still blended into the background in a football-crazy town.

Instead, he took an extra $4 million over four years to come to Boston, a place where every game matters to the fans. It’s a place Foulke now says he just wants to escape – the city, not the team.

Foulke is recognized everywhere and he’s not too crazy about that. It also doesn’t help that this season has been a nightmare.

Even when the fans are thanking him, there are constant reminders that he is 5-5 with 15 saves and a 6.18 ERA in a season in which he’s also missed 50 games to have arthroscopic knee surgery.

“There are times when it’s definitely tough to deal with,” Foulke said Friday before the Red Sox played his former team at Fenway Park. “When everything is peachy and going well, sometimes success allows you to deal with things a little easier. But after a while you get tired of hearing everybody’s opinion on what you’re doing wrong. There are times when you don’t want to talk about baseball. You want to sit down and have a beer with your buddies.

“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.”

It isn’t only the fans. Foulke also has run hot-and-cold with the media.

“You guys wonder why sometimes I get real short and become a smartass?” he said. “You know what? I am so sick and tired of talking about the same (stuff) every day. It’s not even funny.

“Everybody keeps asking me. I am so sick and tired of talking about mechanics and how I feel. . . . I can’t express to you how disgusted it makes me feel. . . . I am a private person and to have people talk to me every day about failure is gut-wrenching.”

Foulke’s pitching was ineffective from the start of the season. Not only was his velocity off by several miles per he was giving up a lot of home runs.

He spent time looking at his mechanics, watching video from as far back as three years to try to pinpoint what he was doing wrong. An examination by doctors revealed that both knees would benefit from surgery. On July 7 he had the injury in his left knee addressed and it was decided he would wait until the offseason to decide about the other.

Foulke came back from the disabled list on Sept. 1. The Sox have been trying to work him back to where he can be effective or possibly even be their closer again. That hasn’t happened and Mike Timlin, who has a 1.96 ERA in 73 appearances with eight saves in 14 opportunities, has stepped into the role. In Foulke’s five appearances this month, he has allowed three runs in 42/3 innings, and manager Terry Francona seems hesitant to use him in close games.

“I’d like to be a big part of this team and the playoffs aren’t easy when they come,” Foulke said. “You need good pitching. It’s hard wanting to be the pitcher I know I am and have been, but not being able to perform like that. It’s hard on me. The last thing I want to do is come back after and explain to everybody what I don’t know.

“I don’t know why I am not pitching (well).”

After Thursday night’s loss to Oakland, Foulke went to work. He took pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Bill Haselman out to the bullpen for a session. Francona described it as “very productive.”

Even so, Foulke hardly seemed satisfied. He was a difference-maker for the Red Sox a year ago and wants to be one again.

“I threw the ball great in the bullpen (Thursday) night,” he said. “Throwing in the bullpen doesn’t get anyone out in a game.”


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