BOSTON -- Curt Schilling could be throwing off a mound by January after having shoulder surgery Monday that keeps him on target to pitch by the middle of next season if he decides to return.
The Boston Red Sox former ace had his right biceps tendon and labrum repaired and there was no meaningful rotator cuff problem as feared, Dr. Craig Morgan told The Associated Press after completing the operation in Wilmington, Del.
"This really is a best case scenario," Morgan said by cell phone after the 1-hour, 45-minute procedure.
Schilling, who hasn't pitched this season, decided last week to have the operation after the rehabilitation the team preferred didn't relieve the pain he felt when throwing from a mound at far below maximum effort. Morgan had recommended surgery, a difference of opinion that sparked a spring-training melodrama.
The 41-year-old right-hander and postseason star knew it would end his season -- and possibly his career -- especially if the rotator cuff had torn away from the bone. But he felt he had no choice if he wanted to pitch again, for Boston or any other club.
Chances of pitching again seem more likely after the operation.
"He wants to pitch one more year if it's structurally possible with the type of surgery that went on," Morgan said. "My answer is: It is structurally possible if all goes well with the healing process, and I don't have control over that."
Schilling announced plans for season-ending surgery last Friday on WEEI radio and said he could be a "hired gun" who joins a contending team for the last three months of the 2009 season. But he also told the station there's a "pretty decent chance that I've thrown my last pitch forever."
His 11-2 postseason record is the best of any pitcher with 10 or more victories and he has a 2.23 postseason ERA in 19 starts.
In 20 years he is 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in the regular season and ended last season with 3,116 strikeouts, 14th most in history. In four seasons with Boston after being traded from Arizona in November 2003, he is 53-29.
He also contributed to two World Series titles with the Red Sox after winning one with Arizona in 2001.
In 2004, he won Game 6 of the AL Championship Series and Game 2 of the World Series sweep of St. Louis after having a surgical procedure to suture a loose tendon in his right ankle. His bloodstained right sock became a part of baseball history.
In 2007, he went 3-0 in the postseason and started Boston's 2-1 win in Game 2 of its sweep over Colorado.
Schilling is signed only for 2008 at $8 million.
General manager Theo Epstein did not rule out re-signing Schilling when he was asked about it last Friday. Any such decision, Epstein said, is "premature" and depends, in part, on the status of the Red Sox pitching once Schilling is ready to return.
After wearing a sling for three weeks, Schilling will be able to use his arm for normal activities, Morgan said. At six weeks, he should "start the big exercise program."
If recovery proceeds normally, he can start throwing in four months, by late October, from 40 to 50 feet, then work up to 210 feet by six to seven months, taking him to late January. At that point, he should be able to throw off a mound if the rehabilitation proceeds without a hitch, Morgan said.
Then, "according to his plan, he's got from January until May or June to get all of his arm strength back to be able to pitch at a major league level if he so desires," Morgan said.
But he cautioned that Schilling's age adds "some variables" to the recovery, "plus the other variable is whether he will have the desire to go through all that rehab to pitch. That's his choice, not mine."
Morgan said the tendon was "diseased irreparably" with scar tissue and fibrosis. He said the labrum covers the socket of the shoulder, similar to how a tire fits on a wheel on a car. The tendon comes out of the top of the socket and its fibers divide to form "an upside down Y" that becomes the labrum, he said. The labrum problem contributed to the pain and its repair is similar to the one he did on Schilling in 1995.
"Today went well in every regard," Morgan said. "The surgery went without any technical difficulties and there was none of this, 'Oh, my God, we didn't expect that. This is awful.' None of that.
"The pathology or the disease process was as we expected with no surprises and the rotator cuff was better than we expected."
He did put one stitch in the rotator cuff that won't lengthen the recovery period, he said.
"The one thing we can't do," Morgan said, "is make him 28 again."