The Sox have a lot riding on Keith Foulke's return to the bullpen. Just four-and-a-half weeks after surgery on his left knee, Foulke is already throwing off the mound but says his leg still gets tired. ''I'm not as ready as I thought I was. There are times when I don't do things right. And I still feel my knee, " says the reliever.
Foulke said his troubled right knee may also require surgery in the future. ''Over the next week and a half, it'll be interesting to see how it responds. If it starts to bother me, we'll go and shoot it up and kind of get through the season and correct that after the season is over."
Foulke won't begin throwing batting practice until next week, and will hopefully be ready for a rehab stint in the minors shortly thereafter. The best guess is that he won't be back until the end of the month. It can't come soon enough. The Sox are counting on his return in order to get Curt Schilling back into the rotation. Without those two events occurring, a repeat of last year's miracle won't be likely.
The Sox desperately need a confident and reliable Schilling heading the rotation. Things could fall into place nicely with him anchoring the staff. A rotation of Schilling, David Wells, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo could be very competitive in a playoff series.
Arroyo now has 10 victories this season, matching his total from last year, and he thinks he will make 8-10 more starts before the year's over. "It's huge," said the young righty. "Last year, I struggled to get 10 wins. It took me until the last start of the season. I'm throwing the ball pretty well, so I'm happy to be at 10 right now. I feel good and I'm looking forward to hopefully tacking on some more wins."
Arrroyo's success this year has built the confidence of his teammates and his manager. "When you give a guy the ball and you think you're going to win, that's a pretty big compliment," Francona said. "He has turned himself into a real pro. He's a good pitcher."
The Sox will not only rely on Arroyo continuing to be a "real pro", but also on having a healthy and effective Schilling and Foulke. They will also need the best possible performances from each of their other starters down the stretch and into October. Right now, not one starter has an ERA under four. The Sox 4.75 team ERA, is 24th in the majors this year, and the highest among division leaders. People have knocked the Yankees' and Orioles' staffs all year long, yet they both have a lower team ERA than the Sox.
The staff continues to win games, despite itself, because of an offense that supports them with an average of 5.85 runs per game - the highest in baseball.
This isn't last year's team, a squad that had Pedro, as well as baseball's 11th best team ERA. Their record may not indicate that they miss Pedro at the moment, but come October they may. They will need their entire staff - with Schilling and Foulke in their proper and intended roles - to make a Herculean effort and come up big when it counts.
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