Doctors sewed skin to tissue on Schilling's leg

Updated: October 21, 2004, 10:40 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Somewhere on a slab in Boston is a citizen of Red Sox Nation who actually gave his body to the cause.

With the team's future increasingly dependent on Curt Schilling's right leg, doctors decided to try an apparently unprecedented procedure to keep a tendon from slipping around in his ankle. But first, they wanted to test it out.

Curt Schilling
Getty ImagesFluid and blood seeped through Schilling's sock, but the procedure was a success.

So they used a cadaver. No way to know if it was a Red Sox fan.

"We were going to try to do everything we could to try to stabilize the tendon," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Wednesday night before Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. "We were only going to do it as a last-ditch effort."

Schilling hurt the ankle near the end of the regular season and tried to pitch with the injury for Game 1 of the series against the New York Yankees. Unable to push off the mound with full force, he allowed six runs in three innings -- his worst postseason performance since 1993.

The Red Sox lost the game 10-7 and went on to fall behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. They won the next two to stay alive in the series, but they used every available pitcher in the process and found themselves needing Schilling again.

The Red Sox training staff thought of various ways to keep the tendon in place. Special high-top shoes didn't work, and they hit upon the idea of sewing skin in Schilling's leg to the tissue underneath, creating a wall that would keep the tendon in place.

"It seems extreme. We couldn't find a case of it ever being done before," Epstein said. "It was the best way to allow him to have his normal mechanics."

Schilling had three stitches put in at about 2 p.m. on Monday, about 90 minutes before he tested his ankle on the bullpen mound in Fenway Park.

"If it didn't work, he's in the same situation he was before," manager Terry Francona said. "We went out to the bullpen, he did pretty well without it. ... Schill kind of bought off on it, and they did it a day early to see if he could get used to it and let him get comfortable with it. And it certainly seemed to do the trick."

Although there was some fluid and blood leaking through Schilling's sock on Tuesday night, Epstein could see after the first pitch that Schilling was throwing like normal.

The sutures were taken out after the game to avoid infection; if Schilling pitches again, they would be put back in. Epstein said there was no problem repeating the procedure a couple of more times.

"We only have one more series," he said. "People think it's reasonable to do it a couple more times."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press