Red Sox hurler will be able to make his next start
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Curt Schilling and the Red Sox are confident the 21-game winner will make his next start. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
ANAHEIM -- The most frequent worry in Red Sox Nation after Tuesday's resounding, 9-3 victory in Game 1 of the Division Series was easily identified. "How is Curt Schilling's ankle?"
In a nutshell, Schilling should be ready to answer the bell whenever the Red Sox need him next. If this series stretches to a decisive Game 5, Schilling will take the ball.
"Schil went and got X-Rays, all precautionary," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He wanted to make sure he was OK. Everything came back negative."
Which is clearly a positive for the Red Sox. Schilling has battled a deep bruise in his right ankle all season long. During the first half, he would frequently take a numbing shot called Marcaine before and sometimes during his starts. In the second half, the ankle improved to the point he no longer needed the shots.
Francona said that Schilling tweaked the ankle a little in his last start of the regular season, which was against the Yankees on Sept. 26.
The pitcher aggravated it again while throwing to first in the sixth inning during Tuesday's win.
"He's got a problem in a slightly different area in that same ankle," said Francona. "It's higher. I don't know if you'd call it tendinitis. It's a tendon problem. I think our trainers and medical staff are really confident he can make his next start, whenever that is, without problems. That's basically the best way I can simplify it."
Because of Schilling's ultra-competitive fire, Francona isn't at all surprised that the pitcher has been able to thrive all year despite battling the ankle problems.
"I've been around him longer than anybody. He competes... ," said Francona. "I also think there's a time when he's done pitching, he takes a deep breath and things hurt. But I don't think while he's pitching that affects him. He's so strong mentally. You don't ever see him out there tire. He's a horse."
To Schilling, pitching through pain is just part of his job.
"There is a difference between being hurt and being sore, and that you were going to be sore all the time, and it was a matter of just dealing with it, and as I have gotten older, I have realized that that's the way it is," Schilling said Monday. "You never wake up feeling perfect anymore, but you don't worry about it, you don't think about it, because the game and what comes with the game -- the adrenaline and all of the stuff that comes with the game -- tends to make you feel all right once the game rolls around."
Bronson Arroyo / P
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
As recently as a month ago, it seemed doubtful Nixon would be healthy enough to be anything beyond a pinch-hitter in the postseason. But his left quad showed a dramatic improvement in the final few weeks of the season. Nixon, one of Boston's most respected performers, is ready for full-tilt action, despite taking just 149 at-bats during the regular season. He will start against all right-handed pitchers.
"I think the thought was if he came back, we might have him as a pinch-hitter," said Francona. "We were trying to figure out how to give him enough at-bats where he could be a good pinch-hitter. For him to be doing what he is doing is pretty amazing. We tried very hard the last month of the season to get him enough at-bats where he could be a good pinch-hitter."
Sure enough, Nixon came up with a big hit, lacing an RBI single in the ninth that set the table for Orlando Cabrera's three-run double.
Manny meets the press: In a scene that nobody could have imagined a year ago, left fielder Manny Ramirez was the Red Sox player who spoke with the national media during Wednesday's pregame press conference. It was yet another sign of how much more comfortable Ramirez is this season embracing the spotlight that comes with being a star player.
"I think sometimes you want people to really get to know you, because sometimes when you don't talk to the press, or you say no, maybe people write things that are not true," said Ramirez. "So I want to be open to the press so they can really get to know me and see what kind of guy I am."
Ramirez has five RBIs over the first two games, which is two more than he had in the entire, five-game Division Series against Oakland last year.
Timlin's time: Setup man Mike Timlin was arguably the most dominant pitcher the Red Sox had during the playoffs last year, giving up one hit and no runs over 9 2/3 innings. By firing two shutout innings to close out Game 1, and then getting a big strikeout against Vladimir Guerrero in the eighth inning of Game 2, Timlin looks like he's ready for an encore.
He is a veteran of postseasons past, even recording the final out for the Blue Jays in Game 6 of the 1992 World Series.
The bunt: Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Tuesday's win was the savvy bunt single by Doug Mientkiewicz in the top of the eighth inning, which scored Johnny Damon from third.
"The last couple of weeks he has actually said somebody is going to get bunted on," said Francona. "He said, 'They are not playing me in enough. I am going to lay down a bunt on somebody.' When it happened, it happened so quick. I think it got everybody. I just thought it was a great piece of baseball."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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