BOSTON (AP) – Struggling Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke returned to Boston on Thursday for an examination on his left knee, and a source told The Associated Press he’s expected to have surgery and is likely done for the year.

A day after falling out of first place in the AL East for the first time since July 18, the Red Sox sent Foulke home from the road trip to see team physician Thomas Gill. A source familiar with his injury, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP that Foulke is headed for surgery.

A Red Sox source contacted by the AP said no decision has been made on whether Foulke will return this season.

Foulke was a star of Boston’s championship run last year, nailing down all four victories in the World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. But he’s struggled most of this season, posting a 5-5 record and a 5.91 ERA while saving just 15 of 19 opportunities.

Foulke had arthroscopic surgery on July 7 to repair cartilage in his left knee. He missed two months while recovering, and hasn’t pitched in a save situation since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1.

Foulke last pitched Sunday against Oakland, entering the game when Boston trailed 12-0 and going two scoreless innings.

Curt Schilling took over as the closer July 14 and was 4-3 with a 5.18 ERA as a reliever, saving nine of 11 chances. Since Schilling moved back into the rotation on Aug. 26, Mike Timlin has saved seven of nine opportunities.

But Timlin gave up the lead Wednesday night, allowing three runs and recording just one out as the Red Sox lost 7-4 to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The defeat dropped Boston into second place in the division race, a half-game behind the New York Yankees. The Red Sox also trailed the Cleveland Indians by one game in the AL wild-card race heading into Thursday night’s games.

Boston was idle – its first off-day in a month – before a weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Red Sox signed Foulke in the wake of their bullpen 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.

But his on-field struggles this season – coupled with a personal problem he has alluded to but not described – have made him cranky and caustic. He was booed off the Fenway mound after he giving up a ninth-inning grand slam to Cleveland’s Travis Hafner on June 28, then 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.”

Foulke also told the San Francisco Chronicle last week that he was moving out of the city to avoid the attention.

“People don’t understand there’s times when we want to be private,” he told the paper. “There’s a lot of times people come up and they get in your business. … 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.”

AP sports writer Ben Walker also contributed to this story.

AP-ES-09-22-05 2156EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.