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August 3, 2006

Experience on his side, Schilling prepared for playoff push

BOSTON - Curt Schilling peeled off his sweat-soaked T-shirt, sat down and took a firm, hard look at the immediate future.

"Dog days start today," the Red Sox ace pitcher said Monday.

That day, however, was a little different. Age, experience, and living the life of a Red Sox will do that.

"It really hasn't been anything how I've expected it to be, from how my foot feels to my arm, to my body," said Schilling of what has been a 23-start, 152 1/3-inning season. "It's been different, good and bad.

"I've had a lot more days that it's tough getting up, getting around, and getting the foot going, which I didn't expect to have. But it's never bothered me once I started to get ready for a game. But I still don't feel like I've been consistently good yet. Physically I feel great. That was the question for everybody. But the hard thing for me is that mental part that just didn't come back automatically for me. I expected to get back on the mound, be ready, and mentally start clicking and I never did. I'm still searching."

Schilling's season to date has to be classified as a success by even the most ardent of his detractors. At the age of 39 years old, the pitcher has bounced back from a season-long battle with injuries to defy the doubters.

He currently maintains a 13-4 mark with a 3.84 ERA and, most importantly, isn't far off from reaching his ultimate preseason goal, pitching 240 innings. On his current pace, Schilling would total just more than 231 frames, the most since he joined the Sox in '04 and his highest output since compiling 259 1/3 innings in '02.

"Even when I said I didn't question what I could do, people questioned what I was saying," Schilling said. "I was one guy who everybody looked as a question mark. They said, 'Is he going to be able to pitch, and if he does he probably isn't going to be what he used to be.' We still have eight weeks left so I certainly am not going to say, 'Ha, ha, I told you so.' But the fact of the matter is that I've taken the ball every day they have given it to me, and we've done pretty well when I pitched. I'm proud of that."

But not comes the hard part.

For Schilling, Aug. 1 marked an anniversary of when he received a wake-up call that still resonates today. That was the day, back in '04, that former Sox physical therapist Chris Correnti took it upon himself to ask the pitcher about his commitment regarding the season's final two months.

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