Schilling to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

BOSTON -- Even if he never pitches again, Curt Schilling has left his mark on the Boston Red Sox by helping them win two World Series titles. And that's a distinct possibility now that he faces shoulder surgery.

The 41-year-old right-hander, one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history, will have the season-ending operation Monday after the rehabilitation program preferred by the club didn't work.

"Coming back from this surgery at 31 would be an enormous challenge, at 41 more so," Schilling wrote on his blog, 38pitches.com on Friday. "BUT, if that is an option at least I'll be able to make that decision with all the cards on the table, and it will end on terms I choose. I won't come back throwing 85 with so-so crap. If there is not an option to come back and be good, I won't."

Schilling's bullpen session last Friday did not go well. He was examined Monday by his personal physician, Dr. Craig Morgan, who had recommended surgery during spring training. The Red Sox insisted on a more conservative approach of rehabilitation.

The 20-year veteran, who hasn't pitched since last season, announced plans for surgery Friday on WEEI radio. Morgan, who operated on Schilling's right shoulder in 1995 and 1999, told The Associated Press that he would perform the operation in Wilmington, Del., where he is based.

"This could conceivably be a career-ending procedure," Morgan said by cell phone from Naples, Fla. "We're doing this so that Curt Schilling will have a totally functional, pain-free shoulder for the rest of his life."

Morgan estimated recovery time at six-to-eight months.

"I talked to him yesterday a couple of times," general manager Theo Epstein said Friday. "He's realistic about it. He said, 'There's a very good chance that I've thrown my last pitch.'

"But I think he's also prepared to try to work hard this winter and come back in the second half of the season somewhere."

The decision to have surgery didn't surprise Epstein or manager Terry Francona, who have stayed updated on Schilling's rehab. The Red Sox have a deep starting staff without him.

On his blog, Schilling expressed no regrets and thanked fans.

"I have not one single solitary thing in any way shape or form to be unhappy about. There is a world full of people suffering far more and far worse than my shoulder," he wrote.

"To you fans, thank you, thank you, thank you. If it is all over, every single moment and memory I'll take away from my career comes with your involvement and support."

The rehabilitation strengthened his shoulder but didn't eliminate the pain in a torn tendon that Morgan had said needed surgery.

Morgan said he has no animosity toward the Red Sox and he and team physician Dr. Thomas Gill "are on the same page in every aspect of this."

Epstein said it was premature to say Schilling wouldn't pitch for Boston in the second half of next season, although he's signed only for this year at $8 million. But he didn't sound optimistic.

"He made a tremendous impact here," Epstein said. "He certainly lived up to his end of the bargain and it was a very effective marriage while it lasted."

Francona spoke calmly about Schilling before the opener of a three-game series against
St. Louis.

"Maybe because I've been watching it day to day, it's not such a shock," Francona said. "We've been trying to fight this since January."

Schilling won the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston with sweeps in 2004 against St. Louis and 2007 against Colorado. He started Boston's 2-1 win in Game 2 against the Rockies.

But he told WEEI that, "If you use a scale of 1 to 10 and 10 is pitching in the big leagues, I'm at about 3 right now."

Red Sox owner John Henry described Schilling's absence as "a huge loss" in an e-mail to The Associated Press. If he doesn't pitch again, Henry said, "his third world championship places an exclamation point at the end of a magnificent career for one of the greatest pitchers of our time."

Schilling ended last season with 3,116 strikeouts, 14th most in baseball history, a 216-146 record and a 3.46 ERA. In four years with Boston, he's 53-29.

But he's shined brightest in the postseason with an 11-2 record, the best of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions, and 2.23 ERA in 19 career starts.

In 2004, Schilling's first season with the Red Sox after being traded from Arizona, he helped them end an 86-year championship drought.

He became a sports icon in Boston when he won Game 6 of the AL Championship Series and Game 2 of the 2004 World Series after a surgical procedure to suture a loose tendon in his right ankle. His bloodstained right sock became a part of baseball lore.

"He came here at a time when we were aspiring to win a World Series and he was as big a part of it as anybody," Francona said. "That stuff with the sock, that wasn't fake. This guy would pitch and he pitched some unbelievably big games."

Schilling's injury influenced Boston to sign 2005 Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon, who is 4-2, to a starting staff that includes Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, youngsters Jon Lester and Justin Masterson and Tim Wakefield.

Boston also has Clay Buchholz, who began the season with Boston but is now at Triple-A Pawtucket. He pitched a no-hitter last Sept. 1.

Losing Schilling "is disappointing, but I think we reached a point where we weren't counting on Schill, per se," Epstein said. "We'd never bet against Curt Schilling, but I think we always knew that this was a possibility."