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Saturday, December 13, 2003
Updated: December 17, 11:15 AM ET
Foulke signs three-year deal with Red Sox

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- With Keith Foulke in their bullpen, the Boston Red Sox won't have to spend most of this season casting about for a closer.

"We're thrilled to have added one of the elite pitchers in baseball," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Saturday after signing Foulke.

What They're Saying
A National League executive's reaction to Boston's signing of Keith Foulke:
"The Red Sox and Yankees are in this Russia-U.S. nuclear thing. The rest of the world just watches to see what they're going to do.

"I wouldn't mind having the Red Sox pen. (Scott) Williamson has done it before and (Byung-Hyun) Kim has done it before, but one or two of those guys are leaving, I would think. We'll see what happens there. This is going to cause a domino effect.

"I want to see what happens with Williamson and see what (Oakland GM) Billy Beane's next move is. He's got money to spend. I'm sure he had a Plan B all the time. That'll kick in now.''

A scout's take on the signing:
"I've seen a lot of Foulke. I like him. (He throws a) fastball (and a) changeup. He's going to come right at you, and if he gets ahead of you, he'll drop a little change on you. He can go 3-0, 3-1, 3-2 and throw that changeup for strikes. But at the same time, he likes to challenge you.

"He's a true closer, and he won't have any trouble handling Boston. If he gets enough money, I don't think he'll be worrying about it.''
-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider

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Foulke has incentives that would pay him up to $26.5 million if he is the regular Red Sox closer for the next four years. If both sides decline the 2007 option, Foulke would get a total of about $20.75 million and become a free agent for '07.

"We couldn't be happier to have added Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling in the same offseason," Epstein said. "We've added two of the best pitchers in baseball. That was one of the weaknesses of our club last year."

The moves come a year after the Red Sox opted to go into the season without a traditional closer. They eventually traded for Byung-Hyun Kim but then he lost the job; Scott Williamson later moved into the role and pitched well in the postseason before manager Grady Little bypassed him in the seventh game of the AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

Epstein said it wasn't that the team didn't need a closer; he just didn't want to overpay for someone who didn't fit the role. On Saturday, he found his man.

"Going without a proven closer last year ... was a result of not having that guy out there," Epstein said. "We acquired Keith Foulke because we think he's one of the best pitchers in baseball. It's certainly better to have one of those than not to have one of those."

Actually, now the Red Sox have two of those.

"It was a solid team before they added Curt Schilling. That really showed their commitment to winning," Foulke said, adding that the chance to join a well-stocked Boston roster was one reason he chose the Red Sox over his old team, Oakland, which was his only other suitor.

"I want to be a winner before I go out," the 31-year-old right-hander said. "I can't imagine a better place to be than Boston the next three or four years."

Also Saturday, Epstein said that he began negotiations with Pedro Martinez's agent on a contract extension. Martinez is in the final year of a deal that will pay him $17.5 million for 2004, and he has acknowledged that the market could require him to take a pay cut.

Epstein also said he is working on an extension for shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who is in the final year of his deal. Garciaparra has been the subject of trade rumors as the Red Sox discussed a deal that would send outfielder Manny Ramirez to Texas for shortstop -- and AL MVP -- Alex Rodriguez.

Those talks have cooled, as Boston balked at eating a large portion of Ramirez's salary in addition to the $179 remaining on Rodriguez's.

"Our priority at the shortstop position is to sign Nomar to a deal that makes sense for both sides," Epstein said. "Those talks are ongoing."

Foulke was 9-1 with 43 saves and a 2.08 ERA for Oakland last season, when he earned $6 million. He has 143 saves in a career that started with San Francisco in 1997; he was traded to the Chicago White Sox later that season and went to Oakland for the 2003 season.

"I think his importance goes beyond the numbers," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who was a coach with Foulke and the A's last season and commended his ability to pitch multiple innings and on back-to-back days. "He does a lot of those things better than the numbers show."

Ironically, it was Foulke who blew Oakland's lead with four outs to go in the fourth game of the first-round playoff series against the Red Sox. Boston won in five games and advanced to the AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

The Red Sox lost a chance to go to the World Series when Little opted to stay with Martinez in the eighth inning of the seventh game rather than rely on his bullpen.

Signing Foulke means the Red Sox are unlikely to making any other moves that mean adding a lot of salary, Epstein said. Boston is still looking for a second baseman.

"There won't be any significant investments in our near future," Epstein said. "We'll find some inexpensive solutions at second base and on the bench."

Asked whether he liked the look of his team, he said: "I like it a lot unless they hit it to second base."