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Schilling is optimistic about ailing ankle

DENVER -- While anxious fans waited and wondered about his fate, Curt Schilling last night expressed a measure of optimism that he will avoid landing on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right ankle. Red Sox medical director Bill Morgan indicated Saturday that Schilling may need to rest the ankle for two to four weeks if his condition does not improve after tonight's start against the Rockies.

"I'm not really of the mind that we're up against the wall," Schilling said. "I've been feeling better and we've done a lot of different things on a daily basis to try and help it get better."

Schilling plans to receive an injection of Marcaine, an anesthetic stronger than Novocaine, before the game, as he has before at least his last four starts. He expects to receive another dose during the game, as in previous starts.

"The Marcaine certainly is a big thing for me right now," he said, "because I can go out and not really feel any pain and do what I normally do."

However, Morgan said he was wary of Schilling continuing to use the medicine because it could mask a deteriorating condition. Schilling has undergone two MRIs, and the second image indicated his condition had worsened. Morgan will arrive in Denver today to monitor Schilling, then return with him to Boston tomorrow to conduct a third MRI.

Tomorrow's test could be pivotal because if it shows that the condition has worsened, then Schilling could be shut down. Morgan, in an interview last night, cautioned against overdramatizing the outcome.

"I don't want to hang crepe on this thing," he said. "We're going to make sure we do what's appropriate."

Manager Terry Francona also downplayed the notion that Schilling's situation was dire.

"I don't think this is a do-or-die start," he said.

Francona said he believes Schilling can continue using the Marcaine until "the end of October, hopefully," as long as his condition does not worsen.

Schilling, who is uncertain how he suffered the injury, initially used Marcaine in order to work in the bullpen between starts. After he abandoned that, he played catch between starts rather than throw off a rubber, which causes the most discomfort. But he threw in the bullpen Sunday at Fenway and said he felt significant improvement.

Still, Schilling said, he has never battled through such an impairment.

"It's as much, if not more, a mental fight than it is physical," he said, "because I'm going out there not having done the work I normally do physically and I'm trying to stay sharp mentally."

Whatever the latest MRI shows, Schilling plans to take an active role in deciding the next course of action. "It's not one person's decision," Schilling said. "I know my body."Rough landing Second baseman Pokey Reese may have saved a run with his acrobatic catch Sunday behind Pedro Martinez, but he paid for it. Reese strained the extensor tendon of the fourth toe on his right foot when he landed after soaring to rob the Dodgers' Dave Roberts of a hit in the seventh inning.

"It's hard to land from that kind of altitude," general manager Theo Epstein said.

Reese hoped to play last night despite the discomfort, but when he realized the extent of the injury, he notified the team and Francona erased him from the lineup. X-rays were negative, but Francona said Reese probably would not be in the lineup tonight.

Francona initially planned for Reese to play second base and bat eighth, with Mark Bellhorn playing third. But the injury prompted Francona to shift Bellhorn to second base and play Kevin Youkilis at third. Gabe Kapler, who initially was batting seventh, dropped to eighth behind Youkilis.

Nixon ready to go Trot Nixon is scheduled to make his season debut tonight after rehabbing a herniated disk and strained left quadriceps. Nixon played one rehab game for Single A Sarasota and four for Triple A Pawtucket, playing all but one of the games in right field and batting .353 (6 for 17). "I can't really say I'm 100 percent," he said, "but I'm good enough to go out and play defense and run the bases at any level." Nixon is expected to bat sixth. Francona said he will work Nixon back into the lineup gradually, often sitting him against lefties . . . One of the league's most productive hitters, David Ortiz, started the game on the bench because National League rules prohibit the designated hitter and Francona opted to start Kevin Millar at first base against Colorado lefthander Joe Kennedy. Ortiz pinch hit for Millar in the sixth against righthanded reliever Steve Reed, but flied to center with two on and two outs. Ortiz also fouled to the catcher in the ninth . . . Tim Wakefield, who jammed his right thumb Saturday trying to make a defensive play, was able to work in the bullpen before receiving treatment. He remains on track to start Friday in San Francisco.

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