Surgeon: Schilling might have returned with earlier surgery

Updated: October 8, 2008, 6:42 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling could have been ready to pitch in the AL championship series, according to his surgeon.

Dr. Craig Morgan said Wednesday that if the Boston Red Sox had followed his advice to operate on Schilling's shoulder last winter, the right-hander likely would have been ready for the postseason.

"If the [team] would have let me do the surgery in January, he'd probably be pitching in the playoffs now," Morgan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Schilling, who turns 42 next month, missed the entire season after having shoulder surgery in June. The Red Sox won the AL wild card without him and on Wednesday announced their rotation for the best-of-seven ALCS that starts Friday night at Tampa Bay.

Only 3 months after the operation was performed, Morgan on Wednesday described Schilling's shoulder as "phenomenal."

Red Sox owner John Henry, general manager Theo Epstein, president Larry Lucchino and team physician Dr. Thomas Gill did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.

A spokesman for Schilling said the pitcher had no comment. The six-time All-Star is signed for only 2008 at $8 million.

Morgan wanted to operate last January, then said during spring training that the only way Schilling might have been able to pitch this season would be if he had surgery. Gill recommended rehabilitation and Schilling did that reluctantly because he was obligated under his contract to follow the team's plan.

Schilling had the operation June 23 after rehabilitation didn't relieve the pain he felt when throwing from a mound at far below maximum effort. Morgan repaired Schilling's right biceps tendon and labrum but found no meaningful rotator cuff problem.

The shoulder is healthy enough for Schilling to pitch all next season with normal rehabilitation, Morgan said, but "for him to do that, he has to get serious with his rehab."

He said he last spoke with Schilling two weeks ago and last examined him six weeks ago.

Schilling has said if he doesn't retire, he would consider pitching in the second half next season.

"If I had to make that decision today, yes, I'd retire," he said in a recent interview with Sporting News.

Morgan thinks the pitcher's strong competitive instincts might convince him to pitch again.

"I really would be quite surprised if he doesn't pull the trigger and play," Morgan said. "He has the potential to come back and be better than he has been for four years."

Schilling's 11-2 postseason record is the best of any pitcher with 10 or more wins and he has a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will start the opener of the ALCS for Boston, followed by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield, manager Terry Francona said Wednesday, a few hours before the team traveled to Florida.

Schilling made a dramatic return from unprecedented ankle surgery that was performed during the 2004 postseason. He was outstanding that year in winning both Game 6 of the AL championship series against the New York Yankees and Game 2 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, both times with blood seeping through his sock.

Last year he was 1-0 in the AL division series, AL championship series and World Series. He allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in Game 2 of the four-game World Series sweep of Colorado.

In 20 major league seasons, he is 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts. In four seasons with Boston after being traded from Arizona in November 2003, he is 53-29.

Schilling told Morgan he wants to pitch for a championship contender and would go "to the highest bidder," the doctor said. Pitching well for half a year and the postseason might enhance his Hall of Fame credentials.

"He can pitch half the number of pitches and go out with a bang," Morgan said. "This guy is teetering on the edge of Hall of Fame numbers. Ten more wins and a good postseason and he could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

He said Schilling must decide by about Dec. 1 whether to pitch again in order to have enough time for serious rehabilitation that could get him back by midseason.

After the team insisted on rehabilitation rather than surgery, Schilling said, "When you understand the depths of the different diagnosis, the incredible variations in potential treatments and timetables you should be able to understand to some degree why I might be upset at being forced to take this course of action."

He also said then that he was "focused on trying to find out as quickly as possible whether or not this course of action will work."

It didn't.

On Monday, Morgan said, "in January, everything I said has come true, right to a T."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press