Schilling proves shaky vs. Charlotte
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- His mere presence alone satisfied the other 11,625 folks filling McCoy Stadium. It seems safe to assume the four Red Sox front-office members on hand would have liked to have seen Curt Schilling deliver a more major league-ready outing.
With Theo Epstein and three of his youthful cohorts watching, Schilling allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings last night in his second rehabilitation start for the Pawtucket Red Sox, a 9-2 loss against the Charlotte Knights. Throwing 64 of his 92 pitches for strikes, Schilling experienced maddening inconsistency with his fastball and offered little reason to believe his next start will come with a 'B' on his cap rather than a 'P.'
Schilling said he'll talk with with Terry Francona and Epstein today to discuss whether and when he'll rejoin the Red Sox, refusing to make an official proclamation. But he made some comments at the end of his news conference last night that seemed to suggest his next start won't come with the big club.
''That [big league start] ends up when, all the physical questions, you've answered them all and it's just a matter of going to pitch," Schilling said. ''Those aren't all ironed out for me yet.
''There's a bigger picture to think about than just me getting back into the rotation. There's five guys throwing the ball well. We're in first place. When I come back, I don't want it to be a baby-sitting situation. I don't want them to have to worry about having somebody up [in the bullpen] when I go out there. I don't want to be on a pitch count. I don't want to throw this thing out of whack because I want to be back in the big leagues. That's not what this team's about.
''Somebody's going to go to the bullpen when I come back, and it's going to be a starter. I want to be ready. I don't want to come back and pitch, I want to come back and be myself. When we're ready for that to happen, it'll happen."
Epstein declined comment, saying he wanted to talk with Francona and Schilling before addressing the media.
Schilling's performance spoke volumes, though. If anything, he digressed from his last outing, when he held the Knights to a run on five hits in five innings in Charlotte on 78 pitches. Though he struck out eight last night -- including the last two batters he faced -- the Knights hit three doubles and a home run off Schilling, the tater inching over the right field wall off light-hitting Wilton Guerrero's bat in the fourth.
''I think frustration is the word that probably defines the day for me," said Schilling, who flew to Texas last night to meet his Boston teammates. ''I didn't pitch well. I did a lot of things wrong today. It's frustrating."
Though he said his right ankle -- which, in case you've been residing in a cave, underwent surgery in the offseason and is recovering from a subsequent bone bruise/stress reaction -- felt fine, Schilling couldn't capture the consistent velocity he's looking for with his fastball. His heater ranged mostly from 89 to 91 miles per hour, topping out at 94 in the first inning and dropping as low as 86. Schilling threw a fastball to his last batter that registered at 96 on the right field scoreboard, but that was probably a technical malfunction, he said.
''The biggest concern for me right now is the inconsistency on the velocity," Schilling said. ''I've been hurt before, I've come back before. I've been in situations where it was really tough for me to get my breaking-ball feel back, my split, whatever. But it was never my fastball. Right now, I just don't have a feel for my fastball. I throw one 87, I throw one 93, and they feel the same. Throw one 92, and it feels like it's 85. That's not really something I'm used to."
He also made a shield-your-eyes defensive play in the second. After Felix Martinez shot a double down the first-base line with two men on, second baseman Luis Figueroa gunned an ill-advised relay throw home.
The bouncing throw eluded catcher Kelly Shoppach, then sneaked past Schilling, who was standing too close to Shoppach while backing him up. He retrieved the ball and awkwardly sidearmed it to Shoppach, missing the catcher by about a yard to the right. That allowed Martinez to come all the way around for a Little League-style dinger, a double with two errors if you're scoring at home.
''That was just a horrible job of backing up a base," said Schilling, who maintained his ankle did not affect him on the play. ''I got lazy, and I wasn't where I was supposed to be when the throw came in. I compounded one error with another one. Rehab or not, that's the kind of thing that cannot happen."
Despite the subpar outing, the crowd gave Schilling a rousing ovation as he exited. Schilling doffed his cap on his way into the dugout and tossed the lid to a kid in the crowd, surely a collector's item from Schilling's first career start in McCoy Stadium.
Whether it'll be a one-of-a-kind, though, remains in doubt.
''A lot of innings, I catch myself having a Q & A with myself instead of pitching," Schilling said. ''I guess that's always part of the rehab. But physically it's just confusing me right now. I feel good. My arm feels good. My ankle feels fine. We've been pushing between starts, [it] hasn't fatigued, hasn't been sore. The velocity is just not there.
''I'm disappointed, sure. There's two options here: quit or move on. I'm not quitting, so [today] we'll talk and we'll decide what we'll need to do and we'll go from there."