Shoulder pain sidelines Schilling

Shoulder pain sidelines Schilling

BOSTON -- Just when it seemed the Red Sox were going to have perhaps their smoothest offseason in recent memory, news surfaced Thursday that veteran starting pitcher Curt Schilling has a shoulder injury significant enough that he is all but certain to start the season on the disabled list.

It is unclear when Schilling will be able to pitch or what the exact nature of the injury is. For now, the right-hander will try to rehab his shoulder through rest, rehabilitation and strengthening instead of surgery.

Schilling acknowledged on his 38pitches.com blog Thursday night that there have been disagreements with the Red Sox on the proper way to heal the shoulder.

"There have been disagreements these past few weeks in an effort to provide me with a solution that would allow me to pitch as much as possible during the 2008 season," wrote Schilling. "At no time did I ever consider taking a course of action against the club's wishes. In the end, regardless of who agreed with whom, I have chosen the clubs course of action and will vigorously pursue any and every option I can to be able to help this team to another World Series title in 2008."

After experiencing some discomfort in his shoulder in early January, Schilling relayed his concerns to the Red Sox, who, after an examination, did not recommend surgery. But Schilling then sought a second opinion from Dr. Craig Morgan -- who performed a procedure in 1995 that helped save the right-hander's career.

Morgan felt Schilling did need surgery, thought not on the rotator cuff or labrum, which had been speculated in various reports earlier on Thursday.

Ultimately, the Red Sox and Schilling chose to go to an independent party. The recommendation from that physician was not to have surgery.

According to the Boston Globe, Schilling has a partial tear of his right rotator cuff and might not pitch until the All-Star break.

Schilling didn't give a time-table for his return, or a specific diagnosis for his injury.

"Please understand that a lot of what has been reported is not true," Schilling said. "When the club feels it's appropriate to further discuss the details of this issue publicly I will elaborate but I need to make it clear that Dr. Morgan did NOT diagnose me with a tear of the rotator cuff at any time during this process, nor did he recommend rotator cuff surgery."

The Red Sox also didn't get into specifics on Schilling's injury.

The club issued a statement at 8:10 p.m. ET Thursday that stated the following: "Curt Schilling was examined by Red Sox doctors in January after he reported feeling right shoulder discomfort. Curt has started a program of rest, rehabilitation and shoulder strengthening in an attempt to return to pitching."

It has been a trying few weeks for Schilling.

"After being diagnosed by the Red Sox medical staff I sought a second opinion, as anyone would, and when it became clear there was disagreement (which is not uncommon by the way), I agreed to see an independent Doctor from a list the Red Sox provided me, for the third opinion," Schilling wrote. "At this time I have agreed to abide with the clubs wishes in hopes that will provide the results they believe it will."

Both the Globe and the Boston Herald first reported the Schilling injury Thursday afternoon, stating that it was a far more serious matter than the shoulder woes the pitcher had in 2007, when he missed seven weeks of action.

By early Thursday evening, the Globe reported that Schilling and the Red Sox had finally agreed that the player will not undergo surgery. Still, the newspaper stated that "even without surgery, the 41-year-old Schilling is not expected to be ready to pitch until the All-Star break, according to several sources familiar with his condition."

With Schilling out of the mix -- at least for the early part of the season -- it is likely that promising young pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz will now both have spots in the rotation, joining Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield.

The Red Sox might also trade center fielder Coco Crisp in an effort to improve their starting pitching depth. With Jacoby Ellsbury seemingly ready to take over center field, Crisp is on the trading block.

Earlier on Thursday, the Boston Herald said that the Schilling situation had caused "tension and friction" between the Red Sox and the pitcher, and that the club had even inquired about voiding Schilling's $8 million contract.

Schilling made no mention of that in his blog entry.

Schilling, 41, has stated numerous times that 2008 will be his last season in the Major Leagues.

Early last season, Schilling's velocity took a noticeable dip. It was on June 18 in Atlanta when it was clear something was physically wrong with the right-hander. On that night, Schilling's fastball hovered in the mid-80s and the Braves pounded him for 10 hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Schilling was placed on the disabled list the next day and didn't pitch again until Aug. 6. That injury was cited as tendinitis by the Red Sox. Schilling spent his time on the disabled list re-strengthening his shoulder.

Upon his return to the rotation, Schilling was able to remake himself as a pitcher, relying less on velocity and more on location and offspeed pitches.

Schilling made nine starts after the injury, going 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA.

In October, Schilling continued to build his reputation as one of the great postseason pitchers of all time, going 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA over four starts.

A free agent after the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, Schilling re-signed for one year at $8 million on Nov. 6.

"At the time we negotiated the 2008 contract I passed all physical exams and testing, as well as the MRI the club required me to take," Schilling said. "I knew in my heart of hearts that the extra time I was giving my arm to rest this winter would in fact be the cure for what I went through the entire 2007 season. I had a strong desire to not have to go through multiple cortisone injections in my shoulder for another year. There was absolutely no reason for anyone involved to believe I would be anything other than completely healthy and ready for the 2008 baseball season."

At some point, Schilling's shoulder regressed.

"Things have changed since then and I contacted the team early last month with concerns and we've been working diligently to resolve them," Schilling said.

For his career, Schilling is 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts. If Schilling is healthy in October, that could be a huge thing for the Red Sox. In 19 career postseason starts, Schilling is 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.

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