Schilling disappointed, Francona encouraged

Updated: February 24, 2005, 5:47 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Curt Schilling's sock was bloodless, his ankle was stable and his manager was encouraged.

But the perfectionist pitcher was less than thrilled Thursday after throwing off a mound for the first time since his gritty performance in Game 2 of the World Series, which was followed by surgery 16 days later.

Curt Schilling
Schilling tests his surgically repaired ankle earlier this spring.

"This was a day when I didn't feel as good as I wanted to feel,'' Schilling said after his 47-pitch, 16-minute workout. "My ankle didn't hurt, so I guess that's a positive for people other than me.''

Important people such as Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

"I think he looked terrific,'' Francona said. "He wants to be dotting every corner right now and throwing splits, and that's just not going to happen.''

Pitching Opening Day against the New York Yankees on April 3 -- probably against former Arizona teammate Randy Johnson -- remains a possibility, and Schilling's competitive nature is driving him toward that. But he wants to make sure he's healthy at a much more important time.

"I know that the goal's to be on the mound in October again,'' said Schilling, who expects to pitch again on Saturday. "I still expect ... to be as ready as I can be on April 3, but I'm not going to sacrifice the latter half of the season for the early half.

"I guess I'm going to have to be patient.''

Schilling's 21-6 record and 3.26 ERA in his first season with Boston boosted the Red Sox into the playoffs, where his bloody sock became the symbol of his determination to do whatever he could to help them win the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

He had one of the worst outings of his career in the first game of the AL championship series, allowing six runs in three innings of a 10-7 loss to the Yankees. Before his next start, a tendon that had been slipping out of place was stitched to his skin.

With blood seeping through the sutures, Schilling allowed one run in seven innings during Boston's 4-2 win.

The procedure was repeated before his next start, against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed no earned runs in six innings of a 6-2 victory as Boston took a 2-0 lead on its way to a World Series sweep.

He had surgery Nov. 9 to repair a ruptured tendon sheath and had the cast removed about a month later.

On Thursday, he passed a big test.

Schilling played long toss with David Wells, then, at 10:05 a.m., took the mound without wearing an ankle brace and threw his first pitch from one of four adjacent pitching rubbers in a bullpen.

Ten television cameras recorded his moves. Francona and pitching coach Dave Wallace watched closely from behind the mound. Shawn Wooten crouched behind the plate.

"I know he's one of the best and it's an honor to catch him,'' said Wooten, who spent last season with Philadelphia after three with Anaheim. "The ball was coming out of his hand real well. He looked fluid.''

Schilling threw the last nine of his 47 pitches from the stretch. He used all his pitches, worked both sides of the plate and rarely smiled, even when Francona talked to him.

"I went out and talked to him and I should have just left him alone,'' the manager said. "He was grumpy.''

Schilling threw his last pitch at 10:21 a.m., changed into running shoes and talked with Francona, Wallace and Red Sox rehabilitation coordinator Chris Correnti. Moments later, he got into a golf cart and was driven away.

"It's a good start, Wallace said. "I'm not worried about the arm because I know he takes care of his arm. So you want to just make sure everything's OK with his ankle and he doesn't impede his delivery, which looked like it was OK today.''

Schilling worked out for more than an hour afterward. He doesn't expect his ankle to bother him Friday.

"Every day I feel like I'm getting better. Some days I feel like I'm making big gains. Other days, not as much,'' Schilling said. "As far as stamina and stuff like that goes, I felt strong.''

The ankle surgery actually was four separate operations, including one involving a bone, Schilling said. He doesn't expect to be 100 percent healthy again.

"I don't think any of us are after we're about 12,'' he said. "The bone issue's going to be, they said 12 to 14 months of discomfort. I'm not really concerned about that. I'm sore, and soreness is good, but I don't have any pain, which is better.''


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press