Schilling to keep throwing inside

HBPs won't deter Schilling from pitching inside

BRADENTON, Fla. -- While Curt Schilling has vowed to work the inside part of the plate this year -- something he has not generally done throughout his career -- he also promised that he's not intentionally throwing at batters.

On Saturday, for the second outing in a row, after a Minor League intrasquad game Tuesday, Schilling hit a batter in the helmet. He believes it's just a matter of him getting used to throwing inside and the batters getting used to expecting it.

Schilling, who threw a planned four innings, cut through the Pirates' lineup the first time around. In three innings, he faced the minimum nine batters, striking out three and allowing just one baserunner, on an error by usually sure-handed first baseman J.T. Snow.

In the fourth, Schilling faced eight batters and allowed five runners. He opened the inning by catching the left-handed-hitting Chris Duffy with an 0-2 fastball to the helmet, then gave up consecutive singles to Jack Wilson and Sean Casey, scoring Nate McLouth pinch-running for Duffy, before setting Craig Wilson down on strikes, swinging. Jeromy Burnitz's double down the left-field line and Joe Randa's sacrifice fly to center each scored a run. Schilling ended the inning -- and his outing -- by striking out Humberto Cota.

Duffy was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital and diagnosed with a mild concussion. He is being listed as day-to-day.

In spite of his line score -- four innings pitched, four hits, four earned runs, no walks, five strikeouts, one wild pitch, one hit batter, 58 pitches -- Schilling was encouraged by his performance.

"I thought I threw some balls in today good," Schilling said. "I felt good. I know I gave up four runs, but I feel like I did a lot of good things today."

"I gave up a couple ground balls that could have been outs, but I threw a wild pitch and the guy goes to second. The next ball is a ground ball that would have been an out, and I had the first guy 0-2. Jeromy had a chopper down the line. Sean hit a mistake pitch, but I thought that I executed some pitches today. I feel a lot better than the line score."

For the HBP, Schilling said when batters become accustomed to expecting him to work the inside part of the plate, they won't get hit.

"You just got to do it," he said. "The bottom line is that ball should not have hit him. You got to be able to get out of the way of that pitch. The ball that I threw in before that, I jammed him with. I had thrown him a couple balls in the first at-bat, so he was conscious then, but not tentative, not worried in. There's a big difference. I said the same thing to [catcher] Josh [Bard], there's just no way they shouldn't be able to get out of the way of that pitch. So obviously it's something I have to continue to work on.

"I'm not trying to hit anybody in the head. Everybody I've ever played with and people I play against know I play the game on the field the way it's supposed to be played. I keep going back to the same thing -- that ball should not hit you. If you're not comfortable in the box, you will not get hit. So that's something that I have to work on."

Bard saw no intention on Schilling's part.

"Sometimes you're going to hit guys and that's part of the game and there's no intention," he said. "The thing that stinks is the one that hit [Duffy] really wasn't that far inside. He threw a lot more pitches that were more inside than that. It was just kind of up in the zone."

"What he's doing is he's practicing pitching inside. Spring Training is a time where you work on the stuff that you need to get better at. I'm trying to take more aggressive swings. He's trying to pitch inside."

But would it help Schilling if batters thought he might be aiming for them?

"I think Curt has two World Series rings. He doesn't need to worry about his reputation too much," Bard said.

Schilling was pleased with his velocity (around 91-92 miles per hour) and said his surgically repaired right ankle gave him no problem.

"There were a couple of fastballs that I felt like my old self again," he said. "It's kind of the thing I've been searching for for a long, long time: Just for somebody to say or me to feel like I'm back to my old self."

Bard, whom the Sox acquired from the Indians in January, has never caught Schilling, but was pleased with what he saw from the pitcher, including a mix of "probably about 50-50" inside pitches.

"I thought he did a good job," Bard said. "He came right back inside. He threw some pitches in, for the most part. He threw that one ball to Casey, it got a little bit of the plate and he hit that ball hard. But other than that, those balls are ground balls that found holes. I think he should be really, really encouraged. He threw a couple splits and a couple changeups to Burnitz with guys in scoring position behind in the count. Those are the kind of pitches that you know he's staring to get his feel back.

"If you look at today, he was strong. And he was just as strong in that [fourth] inning as he was in the first. It was one of those things where that's baseball, and sometimes it bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't."

Manager Terry Francona was also pleased by Schilling's effort.

"It's a shame he threw that 0-2 pitch that hit that kid. It kind of messed up his inning," Francona said. "But his fastball, he was real aggressive. He threw a couple of good splits. If this was the regular season, we got a loss and we're not happy. But I thought he made a lot of progress. He just looks to me like he feels really good about himself.

"It's Spring Training, that's a great step. He had to work a little bit the last inning and push himself. I thought that was good. I thought he got a lot out of his outing."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.