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Red Sox ace 'feeling very good' about recovery

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

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."