Schilling works out of 'pen for PawSox

Schilling works out of 'pen for PawSox

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Curt Schilling's memory bank still contains a few recollections of what it's like to pitch out of the bullpen. But the reason why Schilling is pitching in relief now and why he was in 1992 with the Phillies is baseball's equivalent of the distance between the earth and the moon.

Schilling was trying to establish himself with the Phillies. With the defending World Series champion Red Sox, he's trying to regain the top-of-the-rotation form he lost after landing on the disabled list following offseason ankle surgery and a subsequent right ankle bruise. And pitching relief, even in the Minor Leagues, might be the most direct route back to Beantown.

"I'd rather be starting," Schilling said after pitching one inning of respectable relief on Thursday night for the Pawtucket Red Sox in a 7-3 loss to the Ottawa Lynx. "I'd rather be out every fifth day and doing what they're paying me to do, but I haven't done it for a while. But they need an arm. When I heard Keith [Foulke] was hurt, I offered [to pitch out of the bullpen].

"We discussed it, and this is where we're headed. Obviously, I feel like when I'm pitching the way I can pitch and starting every fifth day and throwing seven, eight, nine innings every fifth day, I feel that's where my place is. But I haven't proven I can do that yet."

Schilling didn't prove much against Ottawa. His next opportunity to prove he's worthy of returning to Boston comes this weekend, when he's scheduled to pitch in relief on Saturday night and on Sunday afternoon at Alliance Bank Stadium against the Syracuse SkyChiefs.

After Pawtucket relievers Cla Meredith and Juan Perez coughed up four runs in the eighth inning, which enabled Ottawa to take a 5-3 lead, the Lynx scratched out two runs against Schilling in the ninth.

Napoleon Calzado flied out to center, but Ramon Nivar lined the first pitch up the middle for a single. Nivar stole second, and after Ed Rogers went down swinging, Octavio Martinez went the other way. Martinez's hit landed near the right-field line, just beyond the reach of a diving Mike Lockwood, and zipped into the corner for an RBI triple.

Bernie Castro then hit a routine grounder to short for what should have been the final out, but Alejandro Machado booted it for a run-scoring error.

Schilling completed his work by fanning Tim Raines Jr. on a high fastball.

Besides throwing 13 of his 14 pitches for strikes, Schilling topped out at 92 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun.

"Contrary to popular belief, I've done this job before," Schilling said. "I did it in '91 and '92. I understand how it works. I know how to do it, and it's a little different. But I'm 72 hours removed from making a start (Schilling pitched five innings on July 4 against Charlotte), so I wasn't expecting to come out and hit triple digits on the gun.

"Throwing-wise, I felt similar to the other night."

Schilling's routine consisted of playing catch with the outfielders after the sixth and warming up in the eighth. After throwing 20-odd pitches, Schilling said he was "good to go. I have no concerns about the time it's going to take me to get ready or anything like that."

PawSox pitching coach Mike Griffin expressed few concerns about Schilling's stuff, especially his splitter.

"The split continues to be the much better pitch that I've seen in his two starts and his relief appearance," Griffin said. "He threw some very good ones. As for his fastball and his other pitches, I think they're coming. I thought it was coming out of his hand a little better tonight.

"Now, he's just has to get accustomed to the relief role. I think he'll handle it very well."

Without question, Schilling handled a question about comments from teammates Johnny Damon and Tim Wakefield that criticized management's decision to stick Schilling in the bullpen.

"I don't deal with my teammates and my manager through the media," Schilling said. "You guys do a good enough job of that on your own."

Call that retort a verbal equivalent of a high, hard one.

Mike Scandura is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.