Foulke could pitch Saturday; Papelbon sent to 'pen

Updated: March 23, 2006, 8:26 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jon Papelbon is going to the bullpen, Keith Foulke is headed for his first appearance on the mound and Boston's bullpen is finally taking shape 11 days before Opening Day.

Jon Papelbon
Papelbon
Keith Foulke
Foulke

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Thursday the promising and versatile Papelbon will start the season as a reliever and Foulke, who had offseason knee surgery, will pitch in a minor-league game Friday. He could work in his first major-league game this spring on Saturday.

"Our bullpen looks really good," Francona said.

It was really bad last season.

Red Sox relievers had a 5.17 ERA and the fewest strikeouts in the majors in 2005. Since then, the team restocked its bullpen with right-handers Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez and David Riske and still has Mike Timlin after parting with Chad Bradford and Mike Myers.

The 25-year-old Papelbon provided a late-season boost. He made 14 relief appearances and three starts after being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and making his major-league debut July 31. He finished the season with a 3-1 record and a 2.65 ERA.

As a reliever, he allowed no runs in nine of his last 10 regular-season games. He also pitched twice out of the bullpen in the playoffs with five scoreless innings in which he allowed two hits and no walks and struck out two.

Papelbon, whose long-term future appears to be in the rotation, allowed two runs in five innings as a starter in Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees. After the game, Francona told him he was being sent to the bullpen.

"I think he knew" before being told, Francona said. "I wanted to make sure he understood that this was not a demotion. Last year, having very minimal major-league experience, we were very comfortable when we would get him in the game and we will be that way again."

Papelbon and Foulke can both pitch more than one inning in a game. On Friday, Foulke will relieve Curt Schilling when the Red Sox play the Ottawa Lynx, Baltimore's Triple-A team. If Foulke doesn't pitch too much, Francona said the right-hander could work Saturday at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"He doesn't really care where he pitches, if he's pitching in [Class-A] Lowell or he's pitching in a major-league game," Francona said. "I'll be excited to get him going. It's nice to kind of have him in the fold. ... It's nice to give him some repetition. The game's faster" than it is in workouts.

Foulke had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last July and went 5-5 with a 5.91 ERA and four blown saves as he struggled with the knee and personal problems. He began last season with a 3.04 career ERA after six consecutive seasons without an ERA above 2.97.

Francona said he doesn't think Foulke is uncertain about what he can accomplish.

"I think he feels pretty good about himself," Francona said. "I just think what he can do is so good that if he comes out and gives up a home run and you just kind of bail on him, we're losing somebody who can be so effective."

Tavarez pitched for St. Louis last season and for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

"I think [the WBC] helped him," Francona said. "He pitched enough consistent innings. He looks like he's ready to go."

Seanez, coming off two strong seasons in San Diego, allowed eight earned runs in eight innings in spring training before going one inning in Thursday's 4-3 loss to Minnesota. He allowed a walk and two hits but no runs.

"Rudy is kind of a power [pitcher] that I think spent all of spring trying to establish that fastball," Francona said.

Riske, obtained from Cleveland, is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in 9 1/3 innings.

"David's had a tough spring," Francona said. "That doesn't mean he's going to have a tough season."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press