Experience on Schilling's side

Experience on Schilling's side

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling never has to worry about his legacy in Red Sox history. The bloody sock is every bit a part of the team's lore as Yaz, the Green Monster, Pesky's Pole and Teddy Ballgame.

But as any player in either clubhouse will tell you, the bloody sock is ancient history, as is every other significant moment in baseball history. Only the present matters. Or in Schilling's case, Sunday, when he takes the mound as the Red Sox's Game 3 starter in the American League Division Series vs. the Angels.

Schilling will have a chance to close out the Angels in the best-of-five series after the Red Sox took a 6-3 Game 2 win on Friday night.

"I'm as ready to go as I've ever been for a game," said Schilling, who flew ahead of the team on Friday and arrived at the club's hotel just in time to see Manny Ramirez's walk-off homer to end Game 2. "I'm as prepared as I've ever been for a game. I'm pitching against a team that's fighting for their life. That's going to be a challenge. There will probably be some things that will happen tomorrow that people will not forget and you want it to be in a good way when it comes to you.

"You can give me an at-bat, a pitch, a situation, and I can tell you what I'm going to throw right now. So I think I've taken care of everything but the execution part of it. That's really what, in my mind, it comes down to."

Few pitchers in the game are more qualified than Schilling to put the nails in the coffin of an opposing team trying to live to play another day. While Schilling's past won't help him Sunday, his postseason numbers are compelling.

He is 8-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 career postseason starts with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. His .800 winning percentage is the highest in postseason history while his ERA is third lowest among playoff hurlers with at least 100 innings.

And there was Schilling's heroic bloody sock postseason, when he led Boston's 2004 World Series run while pitching with a detached tendon in his right ankle that bloodied his sock, going 3-1 with a 3.57 ERA in four starts as the Sox won their first World Series since 1919.

"Well, I think one of the main ingredients to being good at this time of the year is part of your internal makeup, I guess," Schilling said. "I'm not afraid to make mistakes -- not afraid to fail. ... I've always wanted to be great on this stage, because the postseason is just so different in how I think I perceive it, how people look at it."

Alas, Father Time has caught up to Schilling, prompting the necessary adjustments. At age 40, he remains an effective pitcher, albeit different.

According to one advance scout, Schilling's stuff is "softer" but he's more of a pitcher. He has great command and is able to locate his pitches anywhere. He uses fewer splitters and more changeups. Perhaps most dangerous is the vast knowledge of pitching resting between his ears.

"It's like Josh goes through a lineup with a bazooka for the most part and Daisuke [Matsuzaka] is like a machine gun," said Schilling, "and I've turned into a guy who has to use a sniper rifle, pick my spots and pick my targets and execute perfectly."

Schilling indeed has changed, but that doesn't mean the transition has been easy.

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"There's been a lot of dialogue, a lot of conversation, a lot of time spent coming to grips with 'I'm not a guy who throws in the mid-90s anymore, but yet I can still set the tone or the rhythm of the game by the stuff I have currently and change speeds off of that,' going back to his experience and confidence of being a consistent winner," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said. "That has allowed him to make that transition."

Schilling's last start came Sept. 25 against Oakland, meaning he will be pitching with 11 days of rest come Sunday.

"I really don't have any qualms about this or we wouldn't have done it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I think we're trying to set it up where he can be the most effective over the course of multiple starts. I really think we're doing the right thing."


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Schilling likes how he feels after having the extra days off.

"I feel very, very good," Schilling said. "[The ball was] coming out of my hand exceptionally well today. ... As far as sharpness, I think I've thrown enough in the last couple days to feel very good about my stuff."

And Schilling believes he can win because he knows what it takes.

"That's one of the challenges of October that I love, is this is about literally being perfect," Schilling said. "And we hold ourselves to that standard realistically a lot of times, but this is one of those times where I think it is realistic. I've got to be perfect tomorrow. I know what I want to do. I know how I want to do it. I know when I want to do it and I know who I want to do it to, and I'm gonna do it. And that's fun. It's a huge change from 'I'm not feeling sharp today but I'm throwing 97 so I'll get away with some stuff.' And I like that."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Beat reporter Ian Browne contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.