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A Late Bloomer
Tim Crothers
April 21, 1997
Oakland's aging closer is Taylor-made for the role, Blauser is hot, but Turner Field is not, An arm worth pampering
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April 21, 1997

A Late Bloomer

Oakland's aging closer is Taylor-made for the role, Blauser is hot, but Turner Field is not, An arm worth pampering

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Phillie Fanatic

After the Phillies' first seven games, ace righthander Curt Schilling was 2-0 and the rest of the staff was 0-5. Comparisons began to surface between Schilling and former Philadelphia lefthander Steve Carlton, who accounted for 27 of the Phillies' 59 victories in 1972—or 45.8%, which remains a major league record.

Like Carlton and the Blue Jays' Roger Clemens, the 30-year-old Schilling is a player who yearns to carry his team on his back. "I want the ball as often as possible, and I expect to win every time I take the mound," he says. "Nobody expects more from me than I do."

Says rookie Phillies manager Terry Francona, "When he pitches, the ball club knows that it's our day to win. He loves the fact that he's the horse."

Schilling has little choice. Philadelphia opened the season with three starters on the disabled list, leaving rookie Calvin Maduro, third-year man Mike Mimbs and journeymen Mark Leiter and Bobby Munoz to fill the rotation. In the Phillies' season-opening 3-0 victory over the Dodgers, Schilling allowed just two infield hits in eight innings and struck out 11. In his second start, a 3-2 win in San Diego, he yielded one earned run in eight innings and struck out seven. But last Friday against the Padres in Philadelphia's home opener, Schilling didn't have his best fastball and labored through 6⅔ erratic innings. In the top of the seventh, with two outs, the bases loaded and the Phillies trailing 3-2, Francona let Schilling pitch to left-handed hitter Steve Finley. Schilling's 113th pitch was driven into the gap in right-centerfield for a triple that cleared the bases and clinched the win for San Diego.

In three games over a span of 11 days, Schilling threw 366 pitches. That's a lot for a pitcher who started last season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder. Considering that the Phils are trying to rebuild around Schilling, who was recently signed to a three-year, $15.45 million contract, you'd expect them to take better care of their one golden arm. Look what happened to Ken Howell, the last starting pitcher Philadelphia signed to a three-year deal, in 1990: He blew out his arm mid-season and won only eight games over the life of the contract.

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