Notes: Schilling unfazed by struggles

Notes: Schilling unfazed by struggles

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling is normally his own harshest critic. So it was indeed noteworthy that a day after getting rocked in his return to the starting rotation, the ace of the Red Sox sounded more optimistic than he has at any point since his challenging return from right ankle surgery.

"I'll tell you this," said Schilling. "If I go out every time from here on out and feel like I did last night, I'll win more than I lose. And when we get to October, I'll be the pitcher I was last year and the year before."

The big right-hander is encouraged by the way his ankle is responding and was enthused by the way the ball came out of his hand in Thursday's loss to the Royals.

"I feel great today," said Schilling. "I'm not sore, my ankle feels great. I haven't felt like this since last April, before I hurt my ankle. I don't have any limitations from a preparation standpoint or a work standpoint."

What frustrated Schilling the most about Thursday's performance (five innings, nine hits, six runs) is that he didn't feel it reflected the way he threw the ball.

"I know there are a lot of people that don't want to hear it, but when I look back on it, stuff-wise, that's every bit as good as I threw the ball last year from a pure physical standpoint," said Schilling. "Every time I needed to reach back, I felt like I did and had something extra on the ball. I had all four of my pitches. I just didn't pitch well. I'm not used to that. I'm not used to feeling that good and not pitching well. That was kind of odd for me."

Some of it was simply rust, at least when it comes to being a starting pitcher. Though Schilling worked as Boston's closer from July 14-Aug. 21, Thursday was his first start since April 23.

"I'm just kind of settling back into what I did before," said Schilling. "Having not started a game in what, four months, you don't forget how to do it, but there are little things that go with the day and the game that you try to settle yourself back into and get comfortable with."

Schilling is eager to get back on the mound on Tuesday night against the Devil Rays.

"I've made a living for 15 years with my command, and it's something I've always prided myself on and [Thursday] night, the good pitches I thought I made that got hit didn't get hit at somebody, and the bad pitches all got hit hard," Schilling said. "Part of the mental grind for me right now is trying to get past that and not make excuses."

While he expects to return to the form everyone has become accustomed to, Schilling doesn't think the ultimate fate of the 2005 Red Sox rests as much on his right arm as so many others do.

"There's an opinion around here that Curt Schilling has to be his former self for this team to win a World Series, and I don't agree with that," said Schilling. "I think I can help us win one. But if I don't get back and throw dominating baseball, this team can still win a World Series."

Bellhorn officially gone: One week after the Red Sox designated Mark Bellhorn for assignment, the second baseman declined the team's invitation to report to Triple-A Pawtucket, officially ending his tenure with the team. Bellhorn will clear release waivers on Tuesday and will then be free to sign with any Major League team.

After putting together a surprising 2004 season, which included some big hits in the playoffs, Bellhorn couldn't get going this season, then went on the disabled list with a left thumb injury on July 18.

"He meant a lot to us. He's one of the best teammates I've ever seen," said manager Terry Francona. "At some point, you have to make decisions on what's best for your ballclub."

Decision looming on Foulke: The Red Sox are in the process of determining closer Keith Foulke's next step. One possibility is that he will throw a simulated game. Another is that he'll go directly to a Minor League rehab assignment.

The Red Sox are expecting Foulke to be activated in the near future. The right-hander underwent surgery on his left knee on July 7.

No news good news on Wells? Left-hander David Wells had the appeal of his six-game suspension heard on Wednesday. Because the Red Sox had not heard a ruling by game time on Friday, they were expecting that Wells is in the clear for his start on Sunday afternoon against the Tigers.

His start next Friday against the Orioles is far less certain.

Debating callups: Francona huddled with general manager Theo Epstein and other members of baseball operations on Friday to discuss potential September callups.

With the Red Sox farm system in its best shape in years, the decisions will be far more intriguing this season. The Red Sox are expected to add a few players on Sept. 1, and then some others once the Minor League season ends.

"We went over a lot of stuff, and we'll continue to do it," said Francona. "I think you actually have to sit down once like we did, because things become a little more clear and then you revisit again."

Renteria's rest: After starting the last 27 games, shortstop Edgar Renteria was out of the lineup on Friday night.

With the Red Sox not landing until close to 4 a.m. from Kansas City on Friday, the timing was perfect for Renteria to get a much-needed breather.

"I think Edgar will show up tomorrow and be a better player. I think it helps," said Francona. "When you have a guy like [Alex] Cora, it makes it easier. That's for sure."

On deck: Right-hander Bronson Arroyo (10-9, 4.19 ERA) will oppose Sean Douglass (5-2, 4,76 ERA) in Saturday night's contest at Fenway Park.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.