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Schilling thinks Clemens return would be thrilling

Pitching behind Roger Clemens would be a dream scenario for Curt Schilling.
Pitching behind Roger Clemens would be a dream scenario for Curt Schilling. (AP Photo)

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Curt Schilling scowled at the suggestion he would be cool to the possibility of Roger Clemens coming to the Red Sox.

''Must be the same people who think I have to be a No. 1," Schilling said yesterday. ''I want to be a No. 1, [but] I don't have to be. If he was No. 38 and he wanted to be the No. 1, I'd give him my number and my spot."

Two weeks before Schilling is expected to pitch the Sox' regular-season opener April 3 in Texas against the Rangers, he looked every bit the part of a No. 1. Pitching against the Cincinnati Reds' Triple A team in a minor league game here yesterday, he struck out 11 while not walking a batter in six innings. He threw 91 pitches, touched 94 miles per hour in the first inning, when he struck out the side, and pronounced his last inning, when he was throwing just as hard, his best of the day.

''I could have finished the game," said Schilling, who figures to pitch twice more down here before throwing his first opener in a Sox uniform.

Schilling gave up a home run to Jesse Gutierrez, a Reds prospect who tore up winter ball in Mexico, and a double to the next batter, Robert Stratton, a No. 1 draft pick 10 years ago still looking to make it to the big leagues (though he once hit a home run in Binghamton, N.Y., that traveled more than 500 feet, according to the locals). Schilling also was knocked around for three runs in another inning.

''I was extreme today," Schilling said. ''When I was sharp, I was pinpoint. When I missed, I missed brutally. The home run, I threw a pitch in a count I never ever throw, and I tricked myself into throwing it. It wasn't a bad pitch, but it was the wrong pitch in the wrong count.

''The double was a fly ball. The inning I gave up the hits, I missed by 3 feet, in different counts -- 0 and 0 and 0 and 2 -- when I'm trying to hump it up. That was frustrating."

Schilling was accompanied by Ralph Treuel, the Sox' minor league pitching coordinator, trainer Paul Lessard, and his 6-year-old son Grant. He also was watched by former Sox infielder Tim Naehring, the Reds' minor league field coordinator, and former Sox first base coach Lynn Jones, who is now the Reds' roving base-running and outfield instructor. Jones noted that Schilling was throwing with considerably more ease than a year ago.

A crowd of young Reds pitching prospects gathered behind the screen on Field 1 to watch Schilling throw, while the roars from the crowd at the major league exhibition game between the Reds and Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium carried to the back field.

Schilling is likely to pitch in a similar setting Friday, when he is scheduled to make his next start. The Sox are scheduled to play the Orioles, whom they beat, 3-1, in City of Palms Park yesterday, in Fort Lauderdale, and while Schilling is not averse to making another spring bus ride, he doesn't want to see a lineup of Orioles regulars. Not when his second turn of the regular season is scheduled for April 8 in Baltimore.

The notion that Clemens might elect to end his career in Boston, once dismissed in some circles as little more than wishful thinking by the Red Sox, is no longer viewed, in the Boston clubhouse, at least, as such a long shot. Schilling said he happened to bump into Clemens's agent, Alan Hendricks, when Hendricks came to Fort Myers Friday to see Sox general manager Theo Epstein in a visit both insisted was ''routine" but hardly will be perceived as such from the outside.

Randy Hendricks, Alan's brother and partner, confirmed Clemens has no plans to pitch in the season's first two months, and with Clemens turning 44 Aug. 2, retirement still looms as his logical choice.

Schilling faced Clemens in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series between the Diamondbacks and Yankees in a memorable duel of 20-game winners. Neither pitcher was involved in the decision, but the Diamondbacks won, 3-2.

Before that game, Schilling retold the story of Clemens pulling him aside when he was a young pitcher during an offseason workout in Houston.

''What I thought was going to be kind of a sit-down talk about pitching experience turned out to be an hour-and-half butt-chewing," Schilling said at the time. ''He felt at the time that I was someone who was not taking advantage of the gifts God had given me, that I didn't respect the game the way I should, that I didn't respect my teammates the way I should."

The possibility of being reunited, this time on the same side?

''It would be a dream for me," Schilling said.

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