<
>

After taking a year off due to injury, Foulke returns to majors with A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Keith Foulke ended his retirement and
returned to the Oakland Athletics on Friday, agreeing to a
$700,000, one-year contract that allows him to earn $2.5 million
more in bonuses.

The 35-year-old reliever was an All-Star for Oakland in 2003,
then left to sign with the Red Sox and threw to first base for the
final out of Boston's first World Series title since 1918. He had
back and knee injuries in 2005 and 2006, then signed with
Cleveland.

"I decided I was not ready to leave baseball," Foulke said.
"I started throwing again last November. It didn't take long to
figure out I needed to give my knees a year. It was December before
I could throw pain-free with my mechanics."

On the day Indians' pitchers reported to spring training last
year, Foulke retired. He said he felt elbow soreness.

"I wasn't ready to go play for Cleveland," Foulke said. "I
signed a great deal but I wasn't in shape. I could sit on the DL in
Cleveland and get my elbow fixed or stay home and get ready for the
2008 season."

Foulke auditioned for about 20 teams in Phoenix last month. He
also considered offers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and New York Mets.

"It came to who made the best offer, and would give me the best
chance to succeed early in the season," he said. "Oakland has
succeeded with, probably, less talent. That's their benchmark; it's
how they do things. It's a great place to play."

Foulke can earn an additional $500,000 in bonuses based on time
on the active roster and $2 million in performance bonuses based on
games and games finished.

Foulke has a 41-34 record and 190 saves with a 3.30 ERA in his
11-year major league career, which also included stops with San
Francisco and the Chicago White Sox. He was 9-1 with 43 saves and a
2.08 ERA in his first stint with the A's, finishing seventh in the
Cy Young Award balloting.

"I definitely think the bullpen will be one of our strengths,"
A's assistant general manager Dave Forst said. "He still has all
his pitches, although his velocity isn't quite there. He got up to
85 [mph], but to be honest, he's the kind of pitcher who doesn't
need much more."

The right-handed Foulke, a changeup specialist, originally came
to Oakland in a trade that sent Billy Koch to the White Sox.

"I enjoyed my time with Oakland," Foulke said.

Foulke is expected to complement Alan Embree as a setup man for
closer Huston Street.

"I've never considered myself a closer," Foulke said. "I
consider myself a bullpen guy. There are times when pitching in the
seventh inning is more viable."