FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Curt Schilling finally faced reporters on Monday -- and an uncertain future. If the shoulder rehabilitation he reluctantly agreed to fails, he knows his brilliant career could be over.
The one-time Red Sox ace also denied that he was hurt when he signed an $8 million contract last November.
Speaking publicly for the first time about his preference for surgery, Boston's 41-year-old right-hander said he had to follow the team's insistence on rehab because he is under contract.
"I don't have any choice. If their course of action doesn't work I don't pitch this year, and I may never pitch again," Schilling said. "I have to mentally get behind it and do everything I can do to make it work."
Team owner John Henry said he thought rehabilitation was the best treatment and, from what he's heard, there's "a reasonably good chance" that Schilling will pitch this season.
The club and the pitcher hope he can return around the All-Star break.
"He shouldn't be upset because we're trying to do what's in the best interests of Curt and the team," Henry said in a three-minute interview after Schilling, usually drawn to the media spotlight but wary of being a distraction now, spoke to reporters. "So I heard the arguments and I felt we were doing the right thing."
Schilling could see why Henry feels rehab is best.
"When you understand the depths of the different diagnosis, the incredible variations in potential treatments and timetables you should be able to understand to some degree why I might be upset at being forced to take this course of action," Schilling said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "That being said, that process is over and right now I am focused on trying to find out as quickly as possible whether or not this course of action will work."
Red Sox team physician Dr. Thomas Gill recommended rehab for the tendon injury. Schilling sought a second opinion from Dr. Craig Morgan, who operated on the right shoulder in 1995 and 1999. Morgan felt strongly that surgery was best and that rehabilitation would fail and end Schilling's career.
A third doctor, New York Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek, was consulted. He said Schilling had a rotator cuff injury as well as the tendon problem and he felt surgery would sideline the pitcher for the season, according to Morgan.
Schilling repeatedly has expressed great faith in Morgan and said Monday surgery would be done at some point. But, he said, he's hasn't thought or talked about how what happens this year might affect his decision on whether to play in 2009.
"When you consider the different opinions on my arm, I may not have any real input as to whether I pitch or not next year, if that's what I wanted to do," Schilling said in his e-mail. "If Dr. Altchek is correct and I have significant rotator cuff damage then I have thrown my last pitch.
"If Dr. Morgan and Dr. Gill are correct and my cuff is unchanged over the past few years then that opens up another list of possibilities. Much of it will depend on the next 4-6 weeks I would imagine."
From June 19 to Aug. 6 last season, Schilling was on the disabled list with what the Red Sox said was tendinitis in his right shoulder. He finished the season at 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts, then had another outstanding postseason -- 3-0 in four starts, including a 2-1 win in Game 2 of the World Series.
Schilling, who earned $13 million last year, then agreed to an $8 million contract on Nov. 6. It includes an additional $3 million in potential performance bonuses and $2 million if he meets certain weight benchmarks -- $333,333 for each time he passes one of six random monthly weigh-ins.
"If some people want to believe this was me taking advantage of the situation financially, I wouldn't have done it here. I would have done it in at least two other places for $14 million," said Schilling, who was a free agent after the season. "I was healthy at the time. I didn't feel great, but I felt like I was 40 or 41."
He said he passed every test he was asked to take.
Henry said he didn't think Schilling deceived the team about his health.
"I have no reason to believe at this point that any such thing occurred," the owner said.
Schilling said he took about five weeks off after the season before throwing in mid-December when the shoulder "felt like it was August again. It didn't hurt but it felt crappy."
He rested some more before throwing again in early to mid-January.
But, "I just couldn't play catch," Schilling said. "When I went home that night it was painful just laying around. It was aching, almost like a toothache."
At one point, he said, he felt "there was some belief" by the club that he would have surgery on his own. But "I assured anybody I was talking to that I would never do that."
So now Schilling is rehabbing and hoping to play in the 21st season of a career in which his 3,116 strikeouts are 14th most in baseball history and his 11-2 postseason record is the best of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions.
He has a career record of 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and an award as co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. And he was instrumental in the Red Sox championships of 2004 and 2007.
Now he can't even throw a ball without pain.
"I'm disappointed that after 21 years my career might end like this," Schilling said. "And if I never pitch again, as disappointing as it may be, I have no regrets about everything that I've been able to experience."
Henry said he was sure manager Terry Francona, in the final year of his contract, would get a new one but "I don't know when." ... CF Jacoby Ellsbury and RF J.D. Drew arrived at camp. The first workout for position players is Friday.