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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Schilling covers all the bases

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- No crutches. No wheelchair. No water from Lourdes. No brass bands. No arrival by ambulance, sirens cutting a postcard-perfect gulf coast day.

Wearing a Tedy Bruschi jersey and walking without any trace of a limp, Curt Schilling reported for duty with the world champion Red Sox yesterday morning. He worked out with bookend veteran David Wells, threw lightly, and took some grounders off the fungo bat of pitching coach Dave Wallace. We couldn't tell if the big guy was bleeding because Schilling wore red socks on both feet, but he appeared healthy and on schedule to start against Randy Johnson at Yankee Stadium Sunday night, April 3 -- which figures to be the most-hyped opener in the history of baseball.

It's still almost impossible to comprehend everything that happened to Schilling in his first year in Boston. More than any athlete in the history of our town, he delivered what he promised. And the way the season ended -- with Schilling bleeding into his right sock for two clutch wins as part of the greatest stretch of postseason baseball ever played -- is already New England folklore.

Schilling said he hated the Yankees. He said he was coming to town to break an 86-year-old curse. And then he produced. Along the way, he established himself as the new sheriff in Beantown, which threw petty Pedro Martinez -- perhaps the best pitcher in the history of the Red Sox -- into fits of jealousy. Sad but true: Schilling's 2004 season expedited the departure of the Dominican diva.

In past years it would be the arrivals of Pedro and grouchy Nomar Garciaparra that would create minicam scrambles at the Red Sox minor league complex at the end of godforsaken Edison Road. Now it's Schilling's turn and it's Schilling's team and, as always, he was happy to share his thoughts on several million topics when he finally sat before the thirsty Boston media posse.

So, here's Curt.

On Bruschi: "Obviously our thoughts and prayers to the Bruschi family and to the Patriots family. I met Tedy a couple of different times. He's a fantastic guy, an unbelievable competitor, but more than anything just hope and pray that everything turns out OK."

On his surgically repaired ankle: "It's good. It's coming. I still feel like I'm a little bit behind, I'm not sure how much. I put a pair of spikes on for the first time last Friday and I'm making that adjustment. Just moving around in it. Throwing-wise, I'm just a little bit behind, but I'm working the mind-set that April 3 is the day . . . That's my target . . . I think I passed all my big tests. Now I just have to guard against trying to catch up in three or four days. And every day I feel better about things."

On the new rotation: "We signed some quality arms, we lost some quality arms. It's going to come down to health. If Wade [Miller] can get the ball and make 25-30 starts and Wells can make his 30 starts, I think we have as good a rotation as there is in the game. I think on paper, the best rotation in the game is sitting in New York, but you don't win or lose on paper and we got a chance to be as good as anybody."

On Alex Rodriguez: "I'm pretty sure that me not liking Alex Rodriguez is not a groundbreaking story. I'm sure there's a lot of guys in the big leagues that don't like each other. The comments came about because of play in the field last year. I never really thought it was nearly as big a deal as people have made it. I'm pretty sure Alex could care less whether I like him or not. I don't need somebody not liking me to motivate me to play. The guy's an MVP."

On pitching against Johnson in the opener: "Going against the best pitcher in the game on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium, that's as good a challenge as you're going to get in the big leagues. And then again, with the backdrop of Red Sox-Yankees, that's an attractive one."

On steroids: "I hate to see the game take the hits it's taken. I know people involved in it and I don't know some people involved in it. I know Jason Giambi . . . Jason's good people. He made a mistake and you hate to see people have to go through that . . . And a lot of the other stuff, it's sad. With the [Jose Canseco] book coming out and stuff that came out in the book and reading what I've read of it, you can just see what's going to happen. You guys are going to pick and choose what you believe and what you don't and it's all going to be out of convenience . . ."

On what he believes regarding steroids: "I don't know. I couldn't finish the book. It just got to the point where I thought it was unreadable. I certainly think you can't stick your head in the sand and say that it's all lies, but who's to say what is and isn't true? I can only go by the guys that I know . . . It's unfortunate to see somebody go in that direction and it's obvious that he's bitter that his career went the way it did, but I don't think he has anybody to blame but himself."

On MLB claiming it had "no idea" of the steroid scandal: "What other answer would they be able to give and defend? The only other option would have been to say, `Yeah, we knew it and we turned our heads to it.' I thought that was the only answer they could give."

On the idea that Pedro no longer wanted to pitch alongside him: "Yeah. I think that was pretty obvious at the end. Not while it was happening, but I guess if you look at what he said afterward, it was obvious it wasn't as fun of a thing for him as it was for me. I think when the playoffs came and he made the comment about somebody having to have a lot of guts to come up and tell him he wasn't gonna pitch Game 1. That kind of told me where we were at."

On what his winter was like: "It was short. It's still very fresh. The few times when you were able to sit back and watch it again and see it, it was special. We had our own little video that Mike Timlin made and we watched it once it came out and going back and looking at it you just realize that every guy on that team was a part of it."

A lot of them are gone. Pedro. Derek Lowe. Orlando Cabrera. Pokey Reese. Doug Mientkiewicz. Dave Roberts. Gabe Kapler. But Curt Schilling is back for his 18th big league season and his second at Fenway and he is master and commander of a universe in which the Boston Red Sox are the defending world champs.

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

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