FORT MYERS, Fla. - Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling made it clear to a small group of handpicked media members yesterday morning that he remains unhappy that he cannot proceed with the shoulder surgery recommended by his personal physician, even though the Red Sox privately contend that the procedure, known as biceps tenodesis, has never been done on a major league pitcher and would eliminate any chance of his pitching this season.
"I don't have any choice," Schilling said of following the regimen prescribed by the Sox, which involves rest and rehabilitation and began with a cortisone injection in his right shoulder. "If their course of action doesn't work, I don't pitch this year, I might not ever pitch again."
Dr. Suzanne Miller, an orthopedic specialist affiliated with the Boston Sports and Shoulder Center and New England Baptist Hospital, said she could not speak to whether tenodesis - which involves detach ing the biceps tendon from the bone, moving it, then reattaching it to either soft tissue or bone - has ever been done on a big-league pitcher. But she said she was not personally aware of a professional athlete who has undergone the procedure and said it "would be on the rarer side."
The recovery time for such a surgery, which Miller said usually is done on people of middle age or older, is "at the very least four to six months." Miller also noted that she has not seen Schilling's medical records.
Will Carroll, who specializes in medical issues for baseballprospectus.com, wrote in an e-mail that he was not aware of tenodesis being done on a major league pitcher except as part of a larger surgery involving tears in the rotator cuff or labrum. Mets medical director David Altchek, called in to mediate the disagreement between the Sox and Schilling, told the parties that he believed Schilling had a partial tear in his rotator cuff, according to multiple sources, and agreed with the more conservative course recommended by the Sox.
Schilling had not spoken about his condition since reporting to camp last Thursday with other pitchers and catchers. He participated in conditioning drills the next afternoon but since has confined his work to the training room. He said he has been arriving at the facility between 6 and 6:30 a.m. and doing exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder and increase his range of motion. Schilling disputed any questions about the appropriateness of him collecting the $8 million salary he signed for in November, noting that he had passed a physical and MRI.
"If some people want to believe this was me taking advantage of the situation financially, I wouldn't be doing it here," Schilling said. "I would have done it for $14 million in at least two other places.
"People are going to believe what they want to believe. I was healthy at the time."
Schilling has said he had offers from other clubs, which he has not identified, for more money than what the Sox gave him. While reiterating that yesterday, he did not address the issue of whether he would have been able to pass a physical with his other purported suitors.
Schilling said he had remained silent because he did not want to become a distraction, but he privately invited several media members, including WBZ-TV's Dan Roche and NESN's Don Orsillo, to meet him in the parking lot in front of the facility, out of sight of the rest of the media attending yesterday's workout. The Globe was not asked, nor were several other news organizations, including other Boston TV stations that repeatedly had requested that Schilling be made available.
Schilling's desire not to be a distraction appears to have failed, at least for John W. Henry, majority owner of the Sox. Henry, who appeared in camp for the first time this spring about an hour and a half after Schilling left, was asked when he'd arrived.
"Just in time for the Curt Schilling circus," he said.
Henry was peppered with several questions about the 41-year-old pitcher and was clearly uncomfortable having to address the issue.
"He shouldn't be upset," Henry said, "because we're trying to do what's in the best interests of Curt and the team. I heard the [medical] arguments. I felt we were doing the right thing."
Henry said he didn't appreciate public comments by Schilling's doctor, Craig Morgan, that the team's treatment plan had "zero chance" of succeeding. He also took exception to Schilling calling into question the judgment of the team's medical staff by suggesting "egos" might be involved.
"I think there's unspoken here that doctors have egos every bit as much as professional athletes," Schilling said. "These are some of the top people in the world at what they do. I had three different doctors tell me three completely different things with three completely different courses of action. I'm obviously going to fall back on the guy [Morgan] who's already been down this path before."
Henry's response? "I haven't noticed our medical staff having ego issues," he said.
Henry said he did not have any problems with the advice given by the medical staff prior to Schilling signing his deal, nor did he voice any objections to Schilling collecting on his contract despite the possibility he will not pitch this season. "Injuries happen," he said.
His parting comment? "Isn't there anything else to talk about?" he said.
The Sox cannot force Schilling to forgo the surgery, but are empowered by baseball's collective bargaining agreement to take steps to void the contract if he elected not to follow the team's recommendation.
"I think there was some belief on their end that I was going to go off and do my own thing and have surgery on my own," Schilling said, "or something like that. I immediately assured everybody that I was talking to I would never do that, No. 1, and, No. 2, I couldn't do it legally, anyway."
Schilling said he began throwing in mid-December, felt some discomfort, shut down for a couple of weeks, then felt "intense" pain when he resumed throwing in January, far worse than anything he experienced last season, when he was on the disabled list for seven weeks with what was described at the time as biceps tendinitis. He did not point to a single episode as the cause of the pain, only that it was so severe he was unable to play catch.
Schilling likened his current situation to the first time he had shoulder surgery in 1995, when he said he was misdiagnosed by the Phillies and a team trainer recommended him to Morgan, who performed surgery on Schilling.
"Here I am, 14 years later, and he was right every time," Schilling said. "This guy has been cutting edge forever. He's always been way ahead of the bell curve. He's an orthopedic surgeon, but that's like saying he's a major league player. He's Papelbon, a specialist, a shoulder specialist, that's what he does.
"But they [Red Sox] disagreed. And at the end of the day, I hear one doctor say one thing, another doctor say something different, and a third doctor say something completely different. I'm probably as lost as anybody."
Schilling said he ultimately will need the surgery just to live a "normal" life. He said he had not yet given thought to attempting a return next year if he is unable to pitch in 2008.
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.