Schilling throws simulated game

Schilling throws simulated game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In a simulated game at City of Palms Park on Tuesday evening, Curt Schilling threw 81 pitches over five innings, working on adding a changeup to his repertoire.

Schilling had two reasons for the simulated game, which involved no fielders, and Minor League hitters. With the Sox playing in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, Schilling prefers to avoid American League East foes in Spring Training.

He also attended the funeral for John Vukovich in New Jersey earlier in the day, leaving Fort Myers at about 6:30 ET on Tuesday morning with manager Terry Francona and bench coach Brad Mills on team owner John Henry's private jet, and returning that afternoon around 4.

Schilling threw 10-15 changeups in his outing, with his fastball topping out at 93 mph to final batter Jeff Natale, who played for Class A Greenville and Wilmington last season.

Saying he was pleased with his progress. He found himself taking a rare course in the outing, looking for contact.

"I feel good," he said. "All four of my breaking balls got better today, and that's a nice thing at this point. The changeup is coming. It's getting better. I'm really pitching with almost reverse mentality right now. I'm pitching trying to get contact early in the count. Get contact, and that's the opposite of everything I've ever done."

While Francona is pleased to see his ace adding to his repertoire, it remains to be seen what the pitcher will rely on during the season.

"I understand what he's doing, and we see him getting there. It's evolving," Francona said. "I don't think we'll quite know what he's going to depend on until we get deeper into the season. When he gets into second and third with one out [situations] in the season, we'll see what he feels comfortable with and what he goes to.

"But his changeup is definitely getting better. I thought tonight his velocity for pitching in a game where there were no fielders was good. That was a good sign. He's smart enough to get out of whatever he needs to. He did a good job."

Schilling agreed with that assessment, saying he's not at the point, yet, where he can assess his game planning for the season.

"When I get into the season, I will be a fastball pitcher," he said. "I'm throwing a two-seamer now more than I have in the past and been getting in, breaking bats. I'm pitching more to contact early in the count more than I have in the past, and ... it's a completely different thing than I've ever done. But, with my command, it should be more economical, give me more innings, stretch me out for the season, and that's what I'm after.

"I think there's going to be nights where [the changeup] can be a dominating pitch for me. The separation between my fastball and my changeup is about 15 mph -- and that's good. That's what you're after."

Schilling has pitched in three Grapefruit League games so far this spring, all against the Twins, compiling a record of 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In his Thursday outing, he went four innings, allowing a run on two hits and walk, striking out two.

With his next start scheduled for Sunday, and the Sox traveling to Fort Lauderdale to face the Orioles, Schilling will remain in Fort Myers, pitching in a Minor League game.

He may face the O's on March 23, in what would by his typical 100- to 105-pitch outing.

Schilling said the lack of big-league batters does not hinder his Spring Training progress.

"This is really what you make it," he said. "I could have gone out there and not taken it intensely or seriously, but I can't do that. I was worked up, [my] adrenaline was going, and I'm competing. ... I threw [81] pitches and I don't feel like I taxed myself at all. So, I'm feeling good."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.