Healthy Schilling ready for return, still outspoken

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Curt Schilling's ankle is in good shape
and so are his rebuttal skills.

The recovering ace of the Boston Red Sox faced a tough season on
the mound and an unflattering magazine article in the offseason.
Now he's healthy and ready to throw his first bullpen session
Sunday during the first official workout for pitchers and catchers.

"For the first time since April 2004, there really is no
physical limit to getting ready for me," he said Saturday, "so
that's a big difference and I'm excited about that."

He wasn't so thrilled about a recent article in GQ that listed
the 10 most hated athletes in sports based on interviews with their
peers. Schilling was No. 4, in part because of his love for the

"Refresh my memory," he said when asked about the article.
"Oh, oh, yeah. I was actually talking to my wife about that
because I thought maybe she had some input on the article."

The article also raised the issue of whether the red-stained
sock Schilling wore on his injured right ankle in two postseason
games in 2004 had been doctored to appear like blood.

"I don't know what I can say to that. I know what happened,"
he said. "The 24 guys I suited up with saw it so I'm all right
with it."

That ankle bothered him most of the 2004 season, but the
severity of the injury wasn't public knowledge until September.

Schilling pitched Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World
Series with the torn sheath of his ankle tendon sutured into place
so it wouldn't flop over the bone when he pitched. The Red Sox won
both games and their first World Series championship since 1918.

On Nov. 9 that year he had surgery, but his ankle never was at
full strength all last year. He spent 76 days on the disabled list,
part of the season as the closer and finished with an 8-8 record
with a 5.69 ERA in 32 outings.

"From a personal standpoint, it was excruciating," Schilling
said. "There were times last year when walking away seemed like
the smart thing to do and the right thing to do given how badly I
was performing and how hard it was to come to the park.

"The thing I tried to really emphasize from a personal
standpoint was not dragging anybody down with me."

He said there wasn't any one development in the offseason that
told him he was ready to come to camp to prepare for the season
rather than continue his rehabilitation.

"One day I was moving better than I was the day before and
without pain and without repercussions," he said, "which was a
big change."

The Red Sox have seven potential solid starters in camp and two
possible aces _ Schilling and newcomer Josh Beckett.

"I really believe that in our division, the team whose rotation
and pitching staff stays off the disabled list is going to be the
team that's on top at the end of the year," Schilling said.

He seems to be off to a promising start.

"Schill's never going to be a male model (but) he looks
terrific," manager Terry Francona said of his full-bodied starter.
"I think he's too good to allow what happened last year to happen

He was 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 2004, his first year with Boston,
then starred in the postseason.

"I'm ready to be good again," Schilling said.