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Notes: Sox set for Schilling's return

Notes: Sox set for Schilling's return

SEATTLE -- One of the best starting rotations in baseball is about to get better. Curt Schilling is ready to return to action and is scheduled to take the hill Monday night in Anaheim as the Red Sox open a three-game series against the Angels.

Schilling hasn't pitched since June 18 in Atlanta and has been recovering from tendinitis in his right shoulder.

"We're really excited," manager Terry Francona said. "He's had three really good rehab starts."

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Part of the excitement for Francona comes from knowing that his veteran right-hander's starter's shoulder is healthy.

"Watching him throw, you get the feeling that he feels pretty good about himself, so now he can go out and pitch," Francona said. "If he throws a clunker out there, it's not because he doesn't feel good. He's got a chance, because of his track record, to be pretty good. I hope he comes out and pitches eight innings every game."

The 40-year-old Schilling was 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 15 starts on the season before landing on the disabled list in June, and joins a starting staff that now features a pair of 13-game winners in Josh Becket, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield.

To make room for Schilling on the 25-man roster, the Red Sox optioned reliever Javier Lopez to Triple-A Pawtucket. In 44 games this season, the reliever is 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA holding opponents to a .232 batting average in 31 1/3 innings of work.

Walk the line: Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon walked two batters Saturday night to bring his season total to 13 in 39 2/3 innings of work, the same number he allowed all of last year in 68 1/3 innings on the hill.

Despite the increased frequency of the free passes, Francona isn't too worried about his All-Star closer, who missed the last month of the 2006 season with a right shoulder injury.

"I think his command is better now then it was early in the year," Francona said. "That is more important than just the walks. We have tried to be so cognizant of his usage because we want, in August and September, for him to be still firing like he is and be able to go to him if we need to. That's a part of this plan, and I think we've stayed with it really well."

Papelbon earned his 25th save in 27 chances on Saturday and has a 2.04 ERA in 29 appearances on the year.

One man short: Boston will be without utility player Eric Hinske when it faces the Angels this week, as he tends to some personal business at home in Phoenix.

"Hinske's going through some difficulties," Francona said. "His wife is having a very difficult pregnancy. Then, the other day, his grandmother passed away, so it's not been a real good time for him. We're working on what we can do with him because we need to get him home."

Triple-A Pawtucket outfielder Brandon Moss' name was mentioned before the game as a potential replacement for Hinske, but Francona would not comment explaining that the team had to go through the proper procedures before any move could be made.

The bereavement list is a possible solution for the club, which would allow them to replace Hinske on the active roster.

On deck: The Red Sox travel south to Anaheim to take on the Angels on Monday night. Schilling (6-4, 4.20 ERA) takes to the hill against right-hander Jered Weaver (7-5, 4.00 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET.

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

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