SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Finally, there was reason for relief from
In his second relief appearance in three nights for Triple-A
Pawtucket, the Boston Red Sox ace needed only seven pitches -- six
for strikes -- to retire three straight Syracuse SkyChiefs batters
in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday.
"I felt good, better than the other day. I felt like I had a
little bit more life than I did the other day," Schilling said.
"I'm learning some things about the job and about how I'm going to
have to do it.
"I've been around this level of baseball for 17 years," he
said. "I've always understood this is a very different job. It's
going to be what I make it from a mental standpoint. When the phone
rings, I'll be ready to take the ball."
Schilling had made two starts on his current rehab assignment
before pitching in relief Thursday night for the first time. He
joined the Red Sox in Baltimore on Friday, then met the PawSox here
for appearances Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
The PawSox scored three times in the top of the ninth to build a
12-3 lead and delay Schilling's appearance. When he finally trotted
in from the bullpen, he was greeted with a standing ovation
sprinkled with boos from the near sellout crowd of 9,643 as
"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses blared over the speakers
at Alliance Bank Stadium.
Schilling got two quick strikes on Kevin Barker with some
off-speed stuff, then struck him out swinging with a 92 mph
"He threw the ball good," Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson said.
"If we would have got in a situation in the eighth where it was
time for him to come in, I would have brought him in. He was
Schilling followed that by getting John-Ford Griffin to ground
out to first, then retired Julius Matos on a flyout to right field
on the first pitch.
Schilling said his biggest emphasis was pitch selection and
location, and on this night he was flawless.
"I threw a couple of different pitches, got some guys sitting
on something else and made pitches," he said. "It's still a work
in progress. The goal is to make sure when I get up and throw that
mentally and physically I'm as energized and ready as I can be.
"I got ready fast, just like the other day. I'm not going to
need any extra pitches, any more than anybody else. With a phone
call, I can be ready as quick as I need to be."
On Thursday night, Schilling pitched a sloppy ninth inning in
Pawtucket as he began his conversion from starter to reliever. The
38-year-old right-hander allowed two runs -- one earned -- on two
hits and struck out two. The hero of Boston's 2004 World Series
title was deprived of the chance for a save after two other PawSox
relievers blew a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning.
Although nobody from the Boston front office was at Saturday's
game, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and two assistants
watched Triple-A's most expensive mop-up man on Thursday.
Schilling volunteered to go to the bullpen when it became
obvious it would be a while before he could go deep into a game as
a starter. At the same time, Red Sox closer Keith Foulke was
heading for knee surgery, so the team was thinking along the same
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Schilling will combine with
Alan Embree and Mike Timlin to replace Foulke, who had arthroscopic
surgery on Thursday to repair damaged cartilage on his left knee
and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Epstein said the team concluded that Schilling was a long way
from being the ace who went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA before injuring an
ankle tendon late last season. Using an unprecedented medical
technique that caused his ankle to bleed through his sock,
Schilling helped pitch the Red Sox to their first World Series
title since 1918.
Schilling had surgery during the offseason and started this
season on the disabled list. He went 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA before
bruising his right ankle on April 23 and going back on the DL.
Whenever Schilling does come out of the Boston bullpen for the
first time, it will be the 113th relief appearance of his major-league career. He closed 60 games from 1990-2002 while playing for
Baltimore, Houston and Philadelphia.