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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Schilling the talk of town

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The day he signed with Boston he said, "I guess I hate the Yankees now." He has already looked at the schedule and concluded it'll be his turn to pitch when the Yankees first come to Fenway April 16. He spends time in cyberspace, conversing with Red Sox fans.

Any wonder Curt Schilling is a hit with Red Sox Nation?

The Sox thought enough of him to put his face on the cover of the pocket schedule that'll adorn most refrigerators in New England this summer. Appropriately, it's a photo of Schilling with a microphone in front of his face.

Schilling and a microphone. It just goes together like Al Davis and a lawsuit, like Ted Washington and a plate of food.

Today is the first official workout for Red Sox pitchers and catchers (doesn't it feel like it should be the All-Star break by now?) and Schilling has already spilled a couple of million words on the thirsty Boston baseball media.

He talked Wednesday after his first workout at City of Palms Park. Yesterday, the Sox put him in front of nine cameras and dozens of scribes (including at least five New Yorkers) for a press conference after a workout at the Sox' minor league complex.

He touched on a wide range of topics. He said he's working on a new pitch, but would not discuss specifics. He said he'd rather not pitch against division rivals during spring training. He told stories about listening to Ted Williams instruct young Sox hitters when he was a Boston prospect in Winter Haven in 1987. He told us Bill James sent him a letter when he was negotiating with the Sox -- an attempt to persuade Schilling that Fenway is not a graveyard for pitchers. He plans to pitch seven innings per start, which projects to 245 innings. He said former and present teammate Byung Hyun Kim can be a 20-game winner. He said he watched the 1986 World Series at Hooters, and acknowledged he turned off his TV when the Sox took a 5-2 lead into the eighth at Yankee Stadium last Oct. 16.

"I was pretty sure," he said. "I turned it off right before the rally because Pedro [Martinez] was on the hill and that's pretty much a lock . . . I watched the entire postseason except for 10 minutes and it was the 10 minutes that the Red Sox season ended. I was stunned when I woke up the next morning and read the paper. I felt bad for [Tim Wakefield]."

He knows he's here to help the Sox finish the job this time and says he embraces the pressure.

"I firmly believe that from top to bottom, this is the best team I've ever been on . . . My expectations are to win a World Series," he said. "That's why I'm here. That's why I feel like a kid again. The expectations. A lot of people have tried to impart on me the pressure, but I love that. I love that people are counting on me to be a huge part of winning a world championship. I am caught up in it. I've always felt that the bigger the game, the better I got. I live on adrenaline."

And what about when fans overreact?

"That's what makes 'em Red Sox fans," he said. "If Red Sox fans weren't passionate and [ticked] off and angry and bitter and hated the Yankees, they wouldn't be who they are. And now they're my fans. So instead of looking at them and saying, `What a bunch of dopes,' I'm going, `That's cool.' I'm glad that they are the way they are. That's what makes everything about being here different. And that's a good thing."

Asked about Alex Rodriguez going to the Yankees, Schilling said, "If one player stops us from winning the world championship, I guess it wasn't meant to be. It makes them a better club. The guy might go down as the best player that ever played. But this team has a legitimate shot to win the world championship and A-Rod to the Yankees doesn't change that."

Naturally, he was asked about Nomar Garciaparra's psyche in the wake of Boston's failed attempt to land A-Rod. Schilling worked out with Garciaparra in Arizona over the winter and reported, "He's good. He's the only player I've ever played with whose wife is in better shape than he is. I don't think he was happy about how the whole thing went down, but he's human. There's no question in my mind that from Day 1 to the end of the season, Nomar's gonna be Nomar. And that's all I care about."

If the Sox had any imagination, they'd put Schilling in the locker adjacent to Pedro's -- a little racehorse stable incentive for the Dominican Diva -- but as of last Sunday, Schilling's Fenway locker is between Jason Varitek and Wakefield, directly across the clubhouse from Martinez.

Schilling's cars have made a big splash in Fort Myers. The white BMW (760) with the spinning hubcaps is nifty, and then there's the vintage Hummer that changes colors depending on where you stand (blue to purple to green to teal). He's also into throwback jerseys. He donned a Phil Esposito No. 7 Wednesday and yesterday opted for Walter Payton's No. 34.

No retro Yankee shirts -- he hates the Yankees now.

"I don't know that this rivalry has ever been at the intensity level it's at now and we haven't played a game yet," he said. "We haven't even had a workout yet . . . The American League East is going to be settled on the field, as it should be, and I think the two best teams in the game are in this division. And we're going to have 19 chances to beat up on each other to prove who's better."

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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