04/02/2004 8:00 AM ET
A great pair of Sox
Pedro, Schilling could rank with best duos
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|Derek Lowe (right) shares a laugh with co-aces Curt Schilling (left) and Pedro Martinez. (Brita Meng Outzen/AP)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They hail from different countries, different backgrounds and different paths to greatness.
Sure, they are both right-handers capable of baffling any hitter in their path.
And their career numbers are similar enough to prove it.
But their differences are as distinct as their physical appearance.
Pedro Martinez stands an inch below the 6-foot mark and weighs in at 190 pounds, which seems like far less weight than the dominant Dominican carries on his right shoulder every fifth day.
Then there is big, strong Curt Schilling, who at 6-foot-5 and close to 240 pounds, looks like he could move mountains but has instead been brought in to help Martinez push the Red Sox past the Yankees and stop the franchise's championship drought in its tracks at 85 years.
Two unique aces have united in Boston, and their historic significance as a tandem will be determined through time.
They haven't pitched an inning of regular season action together yet, but let the comparisons begin.
"I don't know where you would rank them. I don't know if you could put a number on it but they are certainly up there," said Hall of Fame right-hander Tom Seaver. "I never saw Johnny Sain pitch but that was a storied combination [with Warren Spahn]. It would probably be difficult to beat Schilling and [Randy] Johnson off the top of my head. What about [Mickey] Lolich and [Denny] McLain or [Juan] Marichal and Gaylord Perry."
For good measure, throw in Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale, Jim Palmer-Mike Cuellar, Seaver-Jerry Koosman and Greg Maddux-Tom Glavine.
The bottom line is that if Martinez (166-67, 2.58 ERA, 2,426 strikeouts) and Schilling (163-117, 3.33 ERA, 2,542 strikeouts) both stay healthy, the Red Sox are going to have the epitome of greatness on the mound two out of every five days.
"Forty percent of the time the guy out there is going to have a chance to shut you out and punch out 14," said Seaver. "That's a big factor at the top of the rotation."
As Seaver noted, Schilling has already been part of one storied duo. In 2001, Schilling and Johnson silenced the baseball world en route to a World Series championship, and then put on another clinic together in '02.
The 32-year-old Martinez is eligible for free agency at the end of this season. Schilling, who is under contract with Boston through 2007 (assuming his option vests), hopes that he can ride shotgun with Martinez for the next four years, and then let the numbers fall where they may.
"If four years from now, we've both been here for four years, I'd like to look back and say we did something pretty special," said the 37-year-old Schilling. "But I made the mistake of looking ahead once and I probably won't do that again."
Martinez has never had someone the caliber of Schilling on his staff. Until now.
"Well, right now you have two Pedro Martinez's out there," said Martinez. "I think Schilling is as capable as I am, as Roger Clemens, as Andy Pettitte, as anybody. I would have to just say, 'Hey, if Pedro doesn't do it, Schilling is going to do it.'"
It's just that they do it so differently.
Martinez showcases his fastball, curve and changeup in such equal fashion that hitters find themselves guessing at their own peril.
Schilling clearly features his hard stuff (the fastball and splitter), but can also mix in his curve and slider as legitimate weapons. He's been working on a changeup this spring in hopes that it can bring a deceptive new wrinkle to his arsenal.
Take Martinez, and his uncanny ability to pick apart a hitter's weakness as a game evolves.
Schilling fully admits that he doesn't have that ability. That's why he has become legendary for the countless hours spent dissecting video and scouting reports.
"His preparation, at least as far as pitchers I've been around, is second to none," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He prepares, but he's also good enough to carry out that preparation. He has a plan and he executes it. Every time he throws a pitch, he has a reason for throwing it. Because he has a lot of talent to boot, that's a pretty good combination and that's why he's successful."
Though he is clearly passionate about his prep work, Schilling wonders what it would be like to be able to adjust on the fly like Martinez.
"He's unique and that's one of the reasons why he is as good as he is, because he can do things like that," said Schilling. "Not many people can. He can react to a hitter while he's on the mound, which he does a lot. On the other hand, I can't. I don't see (the batter). I'm counting on my catcher to do that for me."
Over the years, Schilling has been a student of great pitchers. He has absorbed whatever possible from Roger Clemens, Johnson, Maddux and many others and incorporated things from them into his own body of work.
Now he has the privilege of unlimited access to Martinez.
"The first couple of weeks here I was just trying to get a feel for what makes him successful," Schilling said. "I watch him work and listen to him talk and just start trying to take apart some stuff and seeing if it can work for you."
Has anything about Martinez surprised Schilling?
"He's a lot more cerebral than I expected him to be. Talking to him in-depth about some different things, and the feedback that I've gotten, it's impressive," said Schilling. "But it's probably, in hindsight, not surprising. Because you don't win three Cy Young awards and put the numbers that he has in this league without being head and shoulders above everybody else in a lot of different ways."
But make no mistake about it. This is a mutual admiration society that is developing atop the Boston rotation.
"As I've seen now up close, I think he has the most consistent release point I've ever seen in a pitcher," Martinez said of Schilling. "I mean, if you're going to teach a kid how to throw a fastball, you want him to look like Curt Schilling. He knows how to release that ball in the exact same spot consistently, 100 percent of the time, over the top, straight over, out front. Perfect. Those are things I would like to learn, but I don't think I will adjust to those. I'm very different than he is."
While the differences are more obvious than the similarities, those who have played behind both pitchers see the parallels.
"Their mentalities are very much the same," said Diamondbacks third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who played with Martinez in Boston, and teamed with Schilling for four months in Arizona last season. "They're hard-nosed guys and they're gamers. They won't back down to anybody. It was very neat to be able to get to play behind both those pitchers. They're just two people from very different backgrounds, but have had similar success. They go out and they know the game well and they're good people."
But as Schilling notes, the most important thing they share is the ability to put the hitter at a swift disadvantage.
"I think the first similarity we have, and probably the most important one, is that we both throw a lot of strikes," said Schilling. "To me, that's the first and most important. I think there's a mentality when we're out there that's somewhat similar. I think there's a tenacity that we both have. I haven't seen him yet in the regular season so I'm kind of anxious to see how that works."
Catcher Jason Varitek has probably already told Schilling what level Martinez's intensity kicks in at for the games that count.
"That's a different breed of human being," Varitek said of the man he has caught regularly the last six years. "He knows how to compete."
So, too, does Schilling. That's why he sounded almost offended when asked if he ever gets bored during Spring Training.
"I've never been bored on a baseball field in my life," said Schilling. "There is always something new. If you want to be the best, there's always something there."
Two out of every five days, the Red Sox will not only have two pitchers that want to be the best.
They will have two of the best. In the world.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.