Looking as good as he said he felt, Schilling struck out five and allowed two runs over seven strong innings in Boston's 7-3 season-opening victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday.
"I saw him pitching the last game he pitched in spring training and it was obvious he was right back where he likes to be," said David Ortiz, who was 3-for-5 with three RBI. "I saw him making his pitches, doing his thing. He looked great to me."
Schilling said he was still strong after a 117-pitch outing in which he walked one and allowed only one extra-base hit, a two-run homer by Hank Blalock in the sixth inning. His velocity was in the mid-90s at times.
"All of 2004, I was getting shot in the ankle after April. So this has been almost two years since I felt anything remotely close to this," Schilling said. "This is what I was like in 2002."
That year, Schilling won a career-high 23 games and was the runner-up in the NL Cy Young Award voting to Arizona teammate Randy Johnson for the second straight year.
Schilling began last season the disabled list after surgery to repair a tendon in his right ankle (remember the bloody sock in the 2004 World Series?). Schilling bruised that ankle after coming back and went on the DL another 2½ months before returning as a closer. He went 8-8 with nine saves and a 5.69 ERA -- more than two runs above his career mark.
While saying all spring that he felt good, the 39-year-old Schilling knew he had to prove it on the mound. He got off to a good start, pitching a season opener for the first time since 1999 when he was with Philadelphia.
"He was really locating his pitches well," said Michael Young, the AL batting champion last season who was 0-for-4, the first three at-bats against Schilling. "He was on his game, good stuff."
The debut of new Texas ace Kevin Millwood was a bust. The reigning AL ERA champion gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings.
Boston scored six runs with two outs. It got the first five runs off Millwood, who signed a $60 million, five-year deal with Texas after also being pursued by the Red Sox.
Millwood, who had a 2.86 ERA last season in Cleveland, threw 89 pitches. The right-hander threw longer than he had in any game this spring.
"I didn't feel tired at all," Millwood said. "I don't think it had anything to do with stamina. I just threw too many bad pitches."
Not exactly what a record home crowd of 51,541 had hoped to see in Texas' first season opener at home since 2000.
Among those watching was seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, a guest of Rangers owner Tom Hicks. The Rocket sat in the owner's front-row seats by the Texas dugout for the first half of the game.
The Red Sox, Rangers, New York Yankees and Houston Astros -- the
hometown team Clemens helped lead to their first World Series last season -- are all interested in signing Clemens if he decides to pitch this season. Clemens, who said before the game that he's leaning toward retirement, began his career in Boston.
The Red Sox had six different players in the starting lineup from Opening Day in 2005.
New third baseman Mike Lowell led off the eighth with a home run. He had a career-low eight homers last season in Florida, and the Marlins made him and his $9 million salary part of a multiplayer deal that sent he and right-hander Josh Beckett to
Center fielder Coco Crisp didn't take long to make a good impression either, with a nice running catch at the wall of Laynce Nix's sacrifice fly in the ninth. Crisp replaced the popular Johnny Damon, who left for the Yankees.
Ortiz's homer down the right field line in the fifth made it 5-0. He stood at home plate, leaning to see where the ball was going until it finally ricocheted high off the foul pole. The
announced estimated distance was 425 feet for his third Opening Day homer -- his first in four openers for Boston.
Ortiz also had an RBI double.
"That's so nice. I hope he has about 100 more [games] like that," manager Terry Francona said. "We count on him so much. Lefty, righty -- it doesn't matter. He just puts good swings on the ball."
Blalock homered in the Rangers' home opener for the fourth straight year, a ball that barely cleared the wall by the bottom of the pole that Ortiz had hit near the top.
Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo's No. 8 jersey hung at the entrance to the Rangers dugout. Jaramillo underwent surgery for prostate cancer last Tuesday and is recovering in New York. ... Texas rookie second baseman Ian Kinsler singled in his first career at-bat.