Notes: Foulke inches towards return

Notes: Foulke inches towards return

ST. PETERSBURG -- Keith Foulke rejoined the Red Sox on Monday in a continuing effort to return from the right elbow tendinitis that sidelined him two weeks ago, but he acknowledged the steps have been small and slow to come.

The Red Sox reliever was optimistic talking about the range of motion, which he said was nearly full now, but appeared a bit frustrated with the tedious rehabilitation process.

"It's coming along," he said, shrugging. "[Assistant trainer Mike Reinold] says it's progressing the way we're supposed to be, so that's kind of what I go off of."

Boston manager Terry Francona said it would be exciting to see how Foulke, who is playing catch between 75-100 feet now, has progressed since the time he went on the disabled list.

Foulke was 2-1 with a 5.63 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 32 innings when he was sidelined on June 13. The right-hander admitted the elbow was nagging him as far back as last season, but said it had never completely locked up and prevented him from throwing before, forcing him to address the situation.

And the rehab to correct it, although right on schedule, is maddening in its sluggishness, he said.

"They said we've got to take it slow, that way we don't do something to irritate it again," Foulke said. "We're still trying to get all the fluid out of the joint. I guess when the fluid all leaves, we're going to start getting after it a little bit, but it's a slow process."

Schilling snub: Francona still is holding out hope that Boston ace Curt Schilling will find a spot on the 2006 All-Star Game roster after all. The 39-year-old six-time All-Star has posted a 10-2 record and 3.54 ERA so far this season, but he was not elected to the American League team and was not one of the five players up for fan voting for the final roster spot.

Francona said Schilling was "pretty close" to getting in with the player vote, and put in a call to AL All-Star team manager Ozzie Guillen to voice his opinion that Schilling should be included. Francona, though thoroughly disappointed Schilling was snubbed, was careful of his criticisms of the selection process. He stressed that though the system may be a bit flawed, his experience as All-Star manager in 2005 allowed him to appreciate how difficult it was to make everyone happy.

"The way they have [the rules], guys get left off the team, that's just the way it is," Francona said. "It's unfair, that's the way it is. Until they change the rules, it will always be unfair. But they want every team to be represented, so guys are not going to make it that deserve to make it, that's just the way it is."

If Schilling were to join the All-Star team, he would pitch on an "as needed" basis because of his scheduled start Sunday.

Francona had yet to hear back from Guillen as of game time on Monday.

Wells' woes: David Wells returned to the Red Sox from a rehabilitation stint in San Diego for the first time since June 8, and though he was happy to be back in the clubhouse, Francona said physically Wells could be much better.

"He doesn't feel very good," Francona said. "But I think he's gotten to the point where he's like, 'You know what, I'll come back. If I do feel good, if I get to that point where I get over the hump with my knee, I'll be there, and then maybe I won't be as far off.'

"I think he wanted to get back with the team, be a part of it. I think maybe he's hoping that'll help. But he hasn't really felt that good."

Wells went on the DL on May 27 with a right knee contusion.

Clement progressing: The clock starts Tuesday for Matt Clement's rehab. Clement, who went on the disabled list June 16 with a strained right shoulder, will play in a Gulf Coast League game for Class A Fort Myers on Tuesday, and then in a Sunday game at Double-A Portland. Francona said if all goes to plan, Clement will need a minimum of three starts to be able to start in Boston again.

Thoughts on the shift: The Devil Rays employed their shifted defense against David Ortiz on Monday, moving third baseman Aubrey Huff to left field and shortstop Julio Lugo behind second base to clear the left side of the infield in hopes of a better chance at an out. Tampa Bay has done this during each of Ortiz's at-bats in the 11 games the teams have faced off this season, with limited success.

"I think it's a big respect thing to David," Francona said. "He's such a tremendous hitter. They're trying to do different things [to stop him]."

He said it: "Unless they put somebody in the stands, you're not going to stop him all the time." -Francona, on the Ortiz infield shift

By the numbers: After winning 14 of their last 15 games, the Red Sox reached 50 wins in 79 games or fewer for just the ninth time in 106 seasons, and the first time since 1986 (51-28).

Did you know?: Boston has been in first in the AL East for the last 15 days, making it 79 of 90 days the club has been either in first or tied for the top this season.

Up next: The Red Sox return to Tropicana Field on Tuesday for the second game of a four-game set against the Rays. Left-hander Casey Fossum (3-3, 5.03) goes to the mound for Tampa Bay, while right-hander Curt Schilling (10-2, 3.54 ERA) gets the start for Boston. Game time is set for 4:15 p.m. ET.

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.