Outlook not good for Schilling's return

NEW YORK -- Brace yourself, Red Sox fans.

Curt Schilling's right ankle injury is a tendon problem serious enough that his postseason could be over and will eventually require surgery, the Red Sox disclosed before Game 2 of their American League championship series.

"If we can get Curt's ankle stabilized to the point where the tendon stays in place and he's able to have balance and drive and effective delivery, then he'll go out there and start Game 5," general manager Theo Epstein said. "If we can't get him to the point where the ankle is stabilized, then he won't pitch."

Schilling was originally thought to have developed tendinitis in the ankle during a September start and to have aggravated it during last week's start in the Division Series against Anaheim. Red Sox medical director Dr. William Morgan, however, said the problem is a tear on one of the tendons in his ankle and with the sheath surrounding the tendons. The tendon is snapping from the front to the back of the outside ankle bone.

"If this was your problem," Morgan said to reporters, "we would put you in a cast. … Irregardless, at this point in time, he is going to require surgery."

That doesn't sound promising. Nor does the fact the Red Sox have put Schilling in a cast-like boot to protect the ankle when he isn't on the field.

Boston manager Terry Francona refused to say who he would start in Game 5 if Schilling couldn't pitch but it likely would be Derek Lowe, who was 14-12 with a 5.32 ERA.

Morgan said the Red Sox tried to stabilize Schilling's tendon with the use of tape and a special brace and that the combination worked during bullpen sessions. They also injected him with Marcaine to numb the area. Once Schilling entered the hyped-up game situation however, the brace failed to work.

The Red Sox said they will attempt to stabilize the tendon with a new brace, but Morgan said there is no guarantee it will work. "If we can't stabilize the tendon, we are not going to send him out there and he'll have that surgery."

Schilling, acquired last winter, was supposed to be the difference in helping Boston finally beat the Yankees and possibly win its first World Series in 85 years. He won 21 games and Boston's hopes were high -- even Vegas oddsmakers favored the Red Sox -- when he took the mound for Game 1. "I think Curt had been shooting for last night's game since Thanksgiving," Francona said.

Schilling, who was not immediately available for comment, was very discouraged after Game 1, repeatedly declining to speculate to reporters whether he would be able to pitch again this series. He said that he felt the ankle "popping" and that it prevented him from focusing properly on his pitches. It also reduced his fastball by four to five miles per hour. The Yankees hit him very hard and he allowed six runs and six hits in just three innings of the 10-7 loss.

So now the Red Sox go from the optimism prior to the series to the considerable worry that they'll have to rally against the Yankees without their ace.

"Tonight's game is obviously very important for us," Francona said prior to Game 2. "The guy we've got going for us [Pedro Martinez] is going to relish that."

"If we're not able to overcome some adversity -- and whether it's Curt just losing one game, and we hope that's the case, or it's something more than that -- then we're not a good enough team. And I don't think there's anybody in that clubhouse who thinks that's the case."

"You go on fumes," said Yankees manager Joe Torre, who has his own injury concerns with pitchers Kevin Brown and Orlando Hernandez. "We had David Cone go out before a World Series game and take a cortisone shot and he didn't know what to expect. I remember last year I was standing for the national anthem and I feel someone tugging on my sleeve and it's Mel Stottlemyre telling me that he doesn't know if David Wells can pitch that night.

"Things like that happen and you're always surprised by them, but someone has to go out and pitch."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.