Red Sox ace 'feeling very good' about recovery

Updated: February 9, 2005, 12:20 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling might be ready for Opening Day after all.

Curt Schilling
Starting Pitcher
Boston Red Sox
32 21 6 0 203 3.26

The Boston Red Sox ace who underwent ankle surgery after the team won the World Series is throwing again, and manager Terry Francona wouldn't be shocked if Schilling starts against the Yankees and their new pitching star in the season opener April 3 in New York.

"It gives him a target date to shoot for," Francona said Tuesday. "It's the Yankees. It's Randy Johnson. That revs him up even more."

Schilling told The Associated Press on Tuesday that pitching the opener was still his goal.

"I'm feeling very good about things now," he said.

On Dec. 14, he told WEEI-AM radio that his rehabilitation was taking longer than he had expected and said, "As of right now, the timetable looks something later than Opening Day."

General manager Theo Epstein received an encouraging update Tuesday from one of the team's trainers.

"The club is very happy with the progress he's made," Epstein said. "It's premature [to say] he'll be ready by Opening Day, but we like the progress he made from the surgery and his throwing program's going well."

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Boston's spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 17. Schilling, who has spent most of the offseason at his home in Arizona, said he began throwing "a while ago," but emphasized that it's too early for him to make a solid prediction about when he can pitch in the regular season.

"We've just got to get his arm in shape and I think the biggest thing will be mentally having him know his arm's in shape," Francona said.

He and Epstein don't want Schilling to rush back if it risks a physical setback.

"Nothing would surprise me" about Schilling's return, Francona said in a telephone interview as he passed through Jacksonville, Fla., on his drive to Fort Myers.

"I talked to him about four or five days ago and I think he was throwing and doing light PFP [pitcher's fielding practice]. I think the prognosis is great. I don't know the timetable for the program exactly. I don't think anybody does."

Schilling had surgery Nov. 9 to repair a ruptured tendon sheath on his right ankle. He had a cast removed about a month later and learned for the first time that he wouldn't be able to rotate his ankle for four to five weeks, setting back his timetable for throwing.

"Lots can change," he told WEEI in December. "I know I've been a quick healer."

Schilling went 21-6 in his first year with the Red Sox, but the injury appeared end his season in the middle of Boston's World Series run. Team doctors, in an unprecedented procedure, then made a wall of stitches in Schilling's ankle to keep the tendon in place.

Schilling started Game 6 of the AL championship series and, with blood seeping through his sock, beat the Yankees. Boston won the series in seven games.

With the stitches in place beneath a blood-stained sock, Schilling also won the second game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston swept the series.

So Francona wouldn't rule out an Opening Day start by a pitcher with such determination.

"The same guy who accomplished what he did in the postseason is the same guy who's going to try to accomplish this," Francona said. "So I feel pretty good about that."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press