Strong from Start
back-to-back wins to open the season--in 14 innings he gave up just eight hits
and three walks while striking out nine-- Boston righthander Curt Schilling
served notice that he's an ace again, at 39. Last Saturday in Baltimore he was
clinging to a 2-1 lead with runners on first and second in the seventh inning,
when he reached back on his 114th and final pitch of the night and blew a
96-mph fastball (his fastest of the game) past Orioles first baseman Jeff
Conine for strike three.
was curtailed last season after November 2004 surgery to repair the famously
detached tendon in his right ankle, which prevented him from properly pushing
off the pitching rubber. Doctors told him that he'd need 18 months for a full
recovery; he hits the 18-month mark next month. "All spring I'd said that I
haven't felt this good since 2002 [when he went 23-7 with the
Diamondbacks]," Schilling says. "Now I'm able to go out there and back
that up. I feel great; velocity-wise, when I need it, I have it."
was a big question for Boston; another was the effectiveness of the bullpen,
which had the second-highest ninth-inning ERA in the majors last year (5.11).
The Red Sox answered that one in a surprising way last week: In three save
situations manager Terry Francona tapped 25-year-old righthander Jonathan
Papelbon, who was a closer at Mississippi State but ultimately projects as a
starter, instead of 2003 All-Star righty Keith Foulke, who has had two knee
operations since last July.
230-pounder who attacks the strike zone with mid-90s fastballs, Papelbon
dazzled in his first two save chances, preserving one-run wins over the Rangers
and the Orioles by retiring three straight hitters in each game. Francona has
yet to officially anoint the rookie as the closer, but he has indicated that
Foulke, who through Sunday had allowed three hits and one earned run in three
innings, will have to prove he's back in form to get another shot at the