CLEVELAND (AP) - Reliever Keith Foulke, on the mound when Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought, retired Friday just as he was about to begin competing for a closer's job with the Cleveland Indians.
Foulke signed a $5 million, one-year free agent contract with the Indians in January. The right-hander had battled injury problems the past two seasons, and last year he was replaced as Boston's closer by rookie Jonathan Papelbon.
The 34-year-old recently had recent elbow soreness and informed the Indians of his decision on Thursday when the club's pitchers and catchers reported to Winter Haven, Fla.
"While we are disappointed that Keith will not be pitching for the Indians this year, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he went about this decision," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "Keith clearly demonstrated a great deal of integrity and character in this matter and we wish him success in his future endeavors."
Foulke's departure leaves Joe Borowski as Cleveland's most experienced closer, and the one likely to begin the season pitching the ninth inning. The Indians recorded a major league-low 24 saves last season and Shapiro spent the offseason rebuilding his suspect bullpen.
Foulke went 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA but no saves in 44 games in 2006, and he missed two months with elbow tendinitis.
A stretch of 11 straight scoreless appearances in September gave the Indians hope he could fix their problems at closer. Foulke, who had 190 career saves, passed a physical with the club in January.
The Indians had planned to have Foulke and Borowski go head-to-head for the closer's role this spring. But now that Foulke won't be at training camp, Borowski, who had 36 saves in 43 chances last season for Florida, will likely begin the season as Cleveland's closer.
Cleveland has to hope Borowski's health holds up. Before he signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Indians, the 35-year-old had reached a preliminary agreement with Philadelphia, but the Phillies backed off because of concerns over medical tests on his right shoulder.
The Indians' closer situation has been a mess since the club traded Bob Wickman to Atlanta before the July 31 deadline last season. Wickman had 15 saves before he was dealt, and in the season's second half, Cleveland used Rafael Betancourt, Fausto Carmona and Tom Mastny to finish games - with mixed results.
Shapiro signed Foulke and Borowski as well as relievers Roberto Hernandez, Aaron Fultz and Cliff Politte this winter.
In 2004, Foulke helped the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918.
After saving 32 games during the regular season, Foulke went 1-0 with three saves and a 0.64 ERA in 11 postseason appearances. In Boston's sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, Foulke closed all four wins.
In the ninth inning of Game 4, Foulke retired Scott Rolen on a fly ball, struck out Jim Edmonds and then gloved Edgar Renteria's comebacker before throwing to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out.
Foulke also pitched for San Francisco, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland. He was an All-Star in 2003 when he led the AL with 43 saves for the Athletics.