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Schilling pact not insured

Sox responsible for $8 million

Email|Print| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / February 11, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Curt Schilling's $8 million contract for 2008 is not insured, according to a Red Sox source. The team is on the hook for the entire amount, whether Schilling throws a single pitch, unless he abruptly decides to retire, a la Keith Foulke last spring with Cleveland, and he certainly has given no indication of doing that.

Foulke, incidentally, resurfaced over the weekend, agreeing to terms with the Oakland Athletics, the team he left to join the Red Sox after the 2003 season. Foulke accepted a $700,000 offer from the Athletics, after last year walking away from a guaranteed $5 million from the Indians because of a bum elbow, which some would view as exceedingly honorable, others as excessively foolish, depending on one's ethical compass/business sense.

Schilling last week in his blog, in fact, wrote: "There was absolutely no reason for anyone involved to believe I would be anything other than completely healthy and ready for the 2008 baseball season."

That perspective seems to be at direct odds with the news that the Sox, believing he was capable of pitching just a limited number of innings in '08 because of his disintegrating shoulder, initially proposed that he sign a half-season contract much like the ones Roger Clemens has had the last couple of seasons, and that the Red Sox medical staff either raised red flags about re-signing him or recommended outright that he not be brought back. The Sox were adamant that Schilling not undergo surgery, and believe their only chance of seeing any return on their investment is rest and rehabilitation, beginning with the cortisone shot administered Friday.

The Sox' virtual silence on the matter suggests there may yet be some legal or contractual issues to be resolved, but as of now, at least, Schilling is expected to be here when pitchers and catchers report Thursday. Daisuke Matsuzaka showed up at the team's otherwise deserted training facility yesterday morning for an impromptu workout of less than an hour, trailed by the familiar complement of five TV cameras and eight or nine reporters, all from Japanese media outlets, and WBZ Radio's Jonny Miller, who customarily arrives here weeks before everyone else and can tell you when the security guards arrive to open the gates.

In the meantime, the Sox would seem a bit short in the depth of their starting rotation, especially considering their other 41-year-old, Tim Wakefield, missed the playoffs last season because of pain in the back of his shoulder. Wakefield is said to be healthy, and the Sox do have Clay Buchholz, just one of four pitchers in the last 50 years to throw a no-hitter in his first 10 starts. With Jon Lester reported to be bigger and stronger, the Sox would seem to have five starters they can run out when the season starts, and manager Terry Francona already has suggested that given the quirky nature of this season's schedule - the first two regular-season games in Japan, then a break between March 26 and April 2 before playing games that count again in Oakland - the Sox could use the same two starters in all four games.

But there is also little doubt the Sox are shopping for pitching. Still to be determined is how high they are willing to aim. Perhaps the most attractive pitcher available is Oakland's Joe Blanton, now that Billy Beane has left no doubt he is in full rebuilding mode by jettisoning Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, and Mark Kotsay. Blanton is just 27, coming off a season in which he pitched a career-high 230 innings and won 14 games, and in his first year of arbitration eligibility signed a one-year deal for $3.7 million.

But Blanton's asking price is high - you can assume that any conversation Beane has with the Sox will start with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie - and his home-road splits may be cause for concern. He had a 2.69 ERA in pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum last season, a 5.11 ERA everywhere else, and his career home-road split is also tilted toward home (3.55 ERA to 4.66). The Sox also could revisit talks about Rich Harden, who, when healthy, is the ace of the staff, but he needs to prove he's healthy. He's more expensive ($4.5 million this season, a club option of $7 million in '09), and he, too, probably would cost the Sox front-line prospects.

The pickings among the remaining free agents are limited. The biggest name may be Kyle Lohse, who at one time reportedly was seeking a four-year deal at $10 million per but on the eve of camp could be ripe for a one-year deal.

The Sox also could take a flier on someone like Jeff Weaver, a bust in Seattle last season after resurrecting his career the year before in St. Louis, Kris Benson, or Josh Fogg.

Outside of Lohse, those names suggest that for now, the Sox will hope that swingman Julian Tavarez gives them some protection, and they also have David Pauley and Devern Hansack on the 40-man roster, both of whom have started in the big leagues.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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