Notes: Foulke gets fitter

Notes: Foulke gets fitter

BOSTON -- Any improvement is a victory to Keith Foulke. So when the injured Red Sox closer addressed reporters in front of his locker following his latest bullpen session before Wednesday's finale against the Rangers at Fenway Park, he was happy to explain why he was wearing a smile.

"The bullpen [session] actually went much better today than it did the other day, so that's a positive," said Foulke, who began throwing off a mound Monday. "After my bullpen [session] on Monday, I wasn't real happy. I wasn't real happy with how I felt or how I threw, but today I go out there and pretty much from my first pitch off the mound, I had a little crispness on the ball. Breaking balls were good, and I'm starting to mess with the forkball again. And I'm happy."

Foulke had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee July 7 and began working on a strengthening program shortly thereafter.

"Post-surgery, I've definitely come a long ways. I went from not being able to walk upstairs to throwing off a mound in three weeks, so that's a good thing.

"The doctors are happy and the [physical] therapists are all happy, so I guess we're going in the right direction. We're kind of pushing it now. I bust my tail every day when we come in here."

Foulke, who hasn't placed a timetable on his return to the bullpen, threw 34 pitches off the mound, following a warm-up that included long toss.

"I do long toss and then throw about 30 pitches or so," Foulke said. "I feel it. I'm not as ready as I thought I was. There are still times where I don't do things right, and I still feel my knee a little bit. Until we get that stuff [worked] out, and working on mechanical things, and when we get that figured out, that's when we'll be back."

The right-hander was scheduled to throw another bullpen session Friday, but instead will throw off flat ground before throwing from mound again Saturday.

"I was putting so much pressure on myself at the beginning of the year, it can't be any worse than that," said Foulke. "We're taking this opportunity to work on a lot of things. The team is doing well, so that makes it a lot easier, and I don't have to rush back due to us falling apart."

Curt Schilling's effectiveness at the end of the bullpen has also taken some pressure off the need to rush Foulke back.

"Curt's doing a great job," Foulke said. "It's going to allow me some time so when I do come back. It's the pitcher I used to be, not the one we saw at the beginning of the year."

Foulke is anxious to show he's better than the hurler who posted a 5-5 record with a 6.23 ERA prior to the knee surgery.

"I know I'm a better pitcher than what I was showing. If that guy comes back, you'll be talking to someone else next year," Foulke said. "Hopefully, when I come back, you'll see in the way that I pitch and how I come off the mound, you'll see that I feel better and stronger."

Miller time sooner than later: Both Wade Miller and his manager sounded hopeful Wednesday that the right-hander's current stint on the disabled list (right shoulder stiffness) will be a very brief one.

"Maybe a couple of starts ago, my arm started feeling a little bit tired," Miller said. "But it's this time of year, I'm coming close to 100 innings, what I went through last year. I put a lot of strain on my shoulder the last 12 months. [It's] time to get some rest and get stronger."

Miller was placed on the DL following his start Monday and is eligible to come off on Aug. 23.

"This won't be a big thing," manager Terry Francona said. "Just based on what we know right now, I'll think he'll pick up a ball soon and then hopefully he'll be back pretty much when he's [eligible] to come off."

"I didn't have any tests done," Miller added. "They didn't think that was necessary right now. I just want to get after it for the next two weeks and get it stronger. It will make me a little more prepared for when September rolls around."

Miller, who is 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA, said he and the team decided to use caution in making the move to the DL.

"We talked about it before I came in [Tuesday]," Miller said. "I talked with my trainer about it, and he talked with [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and [Francona] about it, and it was a mutual agreement that this was the right thing to do: to be on the safe side and come back stronger in a couple of weeks. I'll probably start throwing in about four or five days."

Presidential birthday: Usually a dignitary like former president George H.W. Bush is the one throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. But Wednesday night, he was only too happy to reverse roles to catch that pitch from his wife Barbara, who turned 80 on June 8 and was on hand at Fenway to celebrate her birthday. Both husband and wife donned Red Sox home uniform tops for the occasion, with Mrs. Bush wearing an '80' on the back while the former president wore a '41' jersey, signifying his term as the 41st president of the United States. Schilling accompanied Mrs. Bush out to the mound while Jason Varitek and Kevin Millar greeted the former president. Following the ceremony, the Bushes accepted a check for $10,000 on behalf of the Southern Maine Medical Center from Meg Vaillancourt of the Red Sox Foundation.

On deck: Following an off-day Thursday, the Red Sox welcome the team with the best record in baseball to Fenway Park as the White Sox invade Boston for the start of a three-game series. David Wells (9-5, 4.45) heads to the mound for Boston while Chicago counters with southpaw Mark Buerhle (13-4, 2.79). The two teams split their only other meeting this season, a four-game series July 21-24 in Chicago.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.