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Notes: Schilling tests ankle
10/15/2004 10:27 PM ET
BOSTON -- Amid the gloomy conditions of early Friday evening, Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling trotted out to the bullpen and tested out his ailing right ankle with the support of a high-top sneaker.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona came away cautiously optimistic and didn't rule out Schilling resurfacing in this series.

"We are encouraged, but that's the first step of a process to see if he can come back and pitch," said Francona. "We can't get ahead of that, because until he shows up [Saturday], we don't know how he's going to feel."

Schilling played long toss on the grass and then had an extended side session. That should be construed as progress since he was too sore to even throw a side session on Thursday.

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"What he did was he went out and threw with a high-top shoe for a little bit of added support, without any stabilizing or bracing or anything like that," said Francona. "He actually did pretty well. Well enough where we are just leaving the door open for his season not to be over, but that's about the extent of it right now."

Francona felt that Schilling looked far more comfortable with his delivery than in Game 1, when the 21-game winner was hit for six runs over three innings in a 10-7 loss.

"He threw with a little more of a normal stride than we had seen in New York, which just by itself was encouraging," Francona said. "The ball came out of his hand even in long toss different than if he was nursing it just a little bit."

According to Francona, Schilling still felt some of the "clicking" from the tendon that he experienced in Game 1.

"But not to the point where he couldn't manage it," said Francona. "We all know what's wrong with him, but if he can manage it, that might be more than half the battle, and he seemed today, for at least the bullpen session, to manage it, so we'll see how it goes from there."

Schilling was originally scheduled to pitch Game 5 before being scratched because of the injury.

Lineup tweak: Francona kept the top four of his lineup intact for Game 3, but switched some of the lower spots around. Catcher Jason Varitek will move up to the five-hole after batting seventh the first two games. Kevin Millar will flip-flop with Varitek, moving down two spots. Bill Mueller, who batted ninth the first two games, will switch places with No. 8 hitter Orlando Cabrera.

"I just wanted to keep some of these guys separated," said Francona. "Mueller has swung the bat very well. They have one lefty [in the bullpen]."

Francona had no thought of moving No. 2 hitter Mark Bellhorn down in the order, despite the second baseman's struggles at the plate during this postseason.

"How about the other 162 [games]? To me, that would sort of show lack of confidence in a team that won 98 games," said Francona. "I'm not going to do that. I'm confident in what these guys can do. Johnny Damon also went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. I'm not going to hit him ninth [Saturday]. He's our best leadoff hitter by far. The way you win is when your players are in the spot and they play good. That's just the way you do things."

   Johnny Damon  /   CF
Born: 11/05/73
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

Damon gets a trim: Damon spent Thursday's off-day getting a haircut. His long hair has been a topic of discussion all year long.

It was not a superstitious ploy by Damon because of his slump in the first two games.

"I just didn't realize how long my hair was," said Damon. "So I went over to my friend's salon and they took good care of me. It made me a better-looking guy."

Damon didn't have quite enough hair to raise money for the Locks of Love charity foundation.

"They said they might need about 10 inches. I didn't have 10 inches to give," said Damon. "But we'll make something work a little bit later."

Staying with combo: Backup catcher Doug Mirabelli has been behind the plate for every start Tim Wakefield has made this season, and that won't change in Sunday's Game 4.

"Dougie has done so well offensively, especially this year, he almost at times gives us a bonus with what he does offensively," said Francona.

Wakefield has developed a close working relationship with Mirabelli over the last three years.

"He's gotten to know my personality a lot better and how to use my other pitches effectively," said Wakefield. "He's done a great job. He throws the ball very well."

Silver lining? Damon didn't think the rainout was the worst thing for the Red Sox.

"It probably [will] benefit us a little more, the fact that we have another day to prepare and maybe get Schilling right," said Damon. "Those guys are still sitting on a 2-0 lead. A lot of people are saying we've got nothing to lose right now. So they can wait it out and keep thinking about the games. We're carefree and loose. We feel very confident in what we can do."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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