The Big Schill is doing more than just tinkering with his changeup. Instead, he's getting it to the point where it figures to be a key part of his arsenal for 2007.
Schilling has typically led with his fastball and splitter. But he indicated following Sunday's strong start against the Twins (3 1/3 innings, two hits and one run) that the changeup could be his No. 2 pitch in certain starts this season.
"I think it's good enough to the point where it can be an out pitch," said Schilling. "You can work all you want in Spring Training on different things, but if you don't have the confidence to get outs with those things, then they go away April 1. It's been something I've worked on and meddled with for three years now, and I think it's at a point now where I can make it a plus pitch."
Without the upper-90s heat that he once had, Schilling feels the need to kee hitters more off-balance.
He estimates that he threw roughly 10 changeups in his outing against the Twins.
"I'm forcing myself to throw it in counts where I would during the season if it was good," said Schilling. "The first couple I threw today, it felt like I was throwing left-handed, because I have a mental checklist that I rapid-fire to throw each pitch, and I've never thrown this -- or really felt this confident or comfortable to this point to use it -- so it's different. The last couple I threw, I thought I threw really, really well. It's going to be a huge weapon for me."
Schilling is using a circle grip for his changeup. Over the past few years, he's tried nearly 20 different grips before getting it to the point it's at now.
"Every time I put a ball in my hand, I'm trying to refine something," he said. "Command-wise, it was funny, because I was sitting in the first inning in the dugout thinking to myself, 'Command-wise, I might go the whole spring without walking somebody.' Sure enough, I go out the next inning and walk the first guy on four pitches. Command-wise, I feel outstanding. So that changeup is going to have to get, for me, comfortable enough where it won't change the amount of balls and strikes I throw."
Catcher Jason Varitek compared Schilling's adjustment to when former Sox ace Pedro Martinez added a curveball to go along with his fastball and changeup.
"He threw some really good ones," said Varitek. "He accomplished getting some use out of it today. It was a good change of pace for him."
Lugo in the middle of it: Nobody who attended Sunday's game at Hammond Stadium could lose sight of Julio Lugo. The leadoff man had two hits, drew a walk, scored a run, got thrown after straying too far from first base after hitting a single, started a couple of double plays and committed an error.
"He took some good swings today," said manager Terry Francona. "[He was] a little overly aggressive on the bases, which is OK. He needs, he wants to run the bases, because if he doesn't know, it's hard to do it when the season starts. I thought he played a pretty good game today. He was all over the place -- out at third, out at first, on [base] three times. He started a couple of double plays. He's got a lot of energy, a lot of good energy. Just on the bench, that can get a little infectious, which is good."
Lugo plans on running the bases with abandon this season. He was asked how many bases he plans on stealing.
"As much as I can," said Lugo. "That's a good number. As much as I can."
Pineiro working out kinks: Closer candidate Joel Pineiro is off to a rough start, posting a 15.43 ERA in his first two Grapefruit League appearances.
It has been a spring of transition for Pineiro, who is preparing to be a full-time reliever for the first time in his career.
"He's got a lot going on right now," said Francona. "He's trying so hard to get his arm slot [lower] without bending. He's thinking through it. He's going to have to do it for a little while. Obviously, when he can do it without thinking, he'll be way better off."
Lester good to go: Lefty Jon Lester is all set to make his first start of the spring, albeit in a "B" game at the Twins' complex on Monday morning. Lester is expected to pitch one inning in his first game appearance of any kind since being diagnosed with lymphoma last August.
Coming up: The Dodgers come to City of Palms Park on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, led by former Boston icon Nomar Garciaparra. This will be Garciaparra's first game in front of a Red Sox home crowd since his departure from the team on July 31, 2004. It will also be a reunion for Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, who played the past two seasons for the Dodgers before opting out of his deal and signing with the Red Sox.
Josh Beckett will pitch for the Red Sox. He'll be opposed by left-hander Randy Wolf.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.