Several times this season, Portland Sea Dogs relief pitchers have gathered in their elevated bullpen beyond the right-field fence to listen to Foulke tales.

Twelve years after Keith Foulke closed out the historic 2004 World Series for the Boston Red Sox, he’s back in the organization as a player-development consultant.

“Actually I think I’m a mentor or advisor or something like that,” Foulke said. “It’s a brand-new position that’s really never been done.”

Foulke spoke from a shaded picnic table at Hadlock Field during the Sea Dogs’ series earlier this week against Trenton. During games he sits in the bullpen with Portland’s relief corps, which currently numbers seven.

“He’s a good sounding board for guys who have questions about certain situations, certain pitches, counts, how to attack hitters,” said Portland pitching coach Kevin Walker, who remains in the dugout during games. “There’s just a lot of things you can bounce off a guy who’s got a ton of experience.”

Foulke had an 11-year career in the big leagues. He began as a starter with the Giants, was involved in trades to the White Sox and A’s, became an All-Star in 2003 and signed with the Red Sox prior to 2004, when he played a pivotal role in their American League Championship Series comeback against the New York Yankees and subsequent World Series sweep of St. Louis.


Knee problems limited Foulke’s effectiveness in two more years with the Red Sox. After elbow surgery he returned to pitch for Oakland in 2008 and ended his career after a 2009 season with the independent Newark (New Jersey) Bears.

In March, he returned to the Red Sox after discussing an advisory role with the team president, Dave Dombrowski.

“He had pretty much the same idea,” Foulke said. “When you think about it, it’s the one group of players that doesn’t have a roving instructor.”

Foulke, who has three sons and makes his home in Phoenix, drops in on the two highest rungs of Boston’s minor league ladder, Portland and Pawtucket. This week’s visit to Maine was his second of July. He arrived Sunday, remained through Wednesday and plans to return in late August.

“I definitely have tried to tap into some of the knowledge he has,” said Ty Buttrey, who has nine starts and 13 relief appearances. “He’s been through it and he can help us out in so many different ways. He’ll help you with your daily routine, help you to become a better overall pitcher.”

Buttrey asked Foulke for assistance with a mechanical issue, trying to resolve Buttrey’s tendency to pull his glove toward first base instead of staying in line with the plate.


“I’ll pull off, miss my spots a little bit,” Buttrey said. “It’s affected my breaking ball a little bit.”

Buttrey has other questions.

“I always ask him, ‘how many times did you throw back-to-back days?’ ” he said. “Because in the minor leagues, relievers generally don’t throw back-to-back days.”

Indeed, Foulke pitched in 11 of Boston’s 14 postseason games in 2004, including all four against St. Louis. After falling into a 3-0 hole against the Yankees, the Red Sox leaned on Foulke for five innings and 100 pitches over three days to remain alive.

“It’s not that your arm is hurting or not, it’s just that you give the team everything you can,” Foulke told Buttrey. “You have to be ready whenever they need you. If you’re a little tight that day, then spend some extra time to get hot, to get ready, stretch your arm out a little more. Obviously there’s a difference between being a little tight and being hurt. … But as long as you’re ready to go, it’s all out.”

Foulke speaks to the group and to pitchers individually. He arrives early for batting practice and pregame work.


“Some guys, we talk a lot more mental stuff,” he said. “Some guys, we talk a lot more physical stuff. We talk about life. Sometimes you have to talk about stuff that occurs off the field to help you on the field.”

Much of the conversation involves success and failure and how to deal with each. Foulke had plenty of both.

“If I can use my failures to help them proceed smoothly in life, that’s one of my real goals,” he said. “Try to keep them from making the mistakes I made, on and off the field.”

Every Portland reliever knows how it feels to descend the bullpen stairs and jog to the mound at Hadlock. What they dream about is making a similar trip at Fenway Park.

“You’re going to go out there and you’re going to be overwhelmed; you’re going to be scared,” Foulke said. “But it will be one of the greatest things ever to happen to you.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.