NEW YORK -- Curt Schilling has gone from being the probable pitcher of Game 5 of this American League Championship Series to the Red Sox being "hopeful" the ace right-hander will be physically able to make that start.
The day after Schilling was touched for six hits and six runs in the shortest postseason outing of his career, Red Sox team doctor Bill Morgan and general manager Theo Epstein further explained what was going on with Schilling's troublesome right ankle, which he injured in Game 1 of his Division Series victory over the Angels.
Morgan and an independent medical specialist constructed a brace for Schilling that was supposed to help keep the ankle in place. It worked during Schilling's bullpen session at Fenway Park on Sunday, at which point manager Terry Francona announced that he would start Game 1.
But with the adrenaline and intensity Schilling was pitching with during Game 1, the brace couldn't contain the tendon, leading to the right-hander feeling a popping sensation after the first inning.
Game 5 (if necessary) will be played Sunday night at Fenway Park. Over the next few days, the medical staff will do everything in its power to keep Schilling's ankle in place so he can get the proper drive on his pitches.
"We're going to continue to try to find something so he can pitch in Game 5," said Epstein. "But we won't compromise the team by sending out a Curt Schilling who won't be effective, and we won't sacrifice Curt Schilling's long-term health either. If we can get that tendon to be stabilized so he can pitch with his normal delivery, he'll be out there and then have surgery when we are done playing. If we can't, he's done."
What occurred in Anaheim was that Schilling suffered a tear of the sheath that surrounds one of the tendons in his ankle.
"Now the tendon is snapping over the bone," said Morgan. "At the present time, we're working on other techniques and making some modifications and we're hopeful that he'll be starting Game 5."
If Schilling can't start Game 5, the most likely pitcher to replace him is Derek Lowe, who won 14 games for the Red Sox this season, and 52 since the start of 2002.
The Red Sox have overcome adversity before. During Spring Training, they lost Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon for the first three months of the season, and still broke out to a 15-6 start.
Curt Schilling / P
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"If it's too much of a psychological blow [to lose Schilling], we weren't a good enough team and I don't believe that," said Francona. "I think we've cleared some hurdles this year already and I think we'll do it again if we have to. If you don't believe that, how can you compete? We have a very good team. We have Derek Lowe waiting in the wings, he's won as many games as anybody [over the last three seasons]."
The Sox were enthused after Schilling's bullpen session on Sunday, thinking that the brace could do exactly as they'd hoped.
"We had an expert come in and we tried," said Epstein. "The challenge here was to create a brace to allow him to have a normal pitching motion but at the same time, keep the tendon stabilized. It was a state-of-the-art brace. It worked very well in the bullpen session and it worked well right up until about the first inning or so. Under game conditions, when you're giving 100 percent, the tendon began to sublux and Curt's delivery was altered and that's why we got him out of the game."
To get Schilling back in the game at what would be an electric Fenway Park Sunday night, the medical staff will be searching for a solution that will support the loose tendon in his ankle. Schilling's next big test will be when he throws in the bullpen, which could be as early as Thursday at Fenway Park.
"We're going to take another shot at it and continue to use every medical technique under the sun to try to get this tendon stabilized so he can go out there again," said Epstein.
If not, an alternative awaits that no Red Sox fan even wants to consider.
"If we can't stabilize the tendon, we are not going to send him out there and he'll have the surgery," said Epstein.
The surgery will require six weeks of healing and six weeks of rehabilitation, which means Schilling should be ready to report to Spring Training in mid-February. Schilling also might need arthroscopic surgery to repair the deep bruise he's had lower in the ankle for most of the season, but that is viewed as a minor operation.
But the Sox hope he still has a few starts in him before the inevitable medical procedures take place.
Morgan is optimistic there will be a way for Schilling to pitch again in 2004.
"We are relatively optimistic," said Morgan. "We are going to modify the splint ... the problem is that it's snapping back and forth from the groove."
Yankees manager Joe Torre, who has the utmost respect for Schilling, isn't banking on not seeing him again in this series.
"It's this time of year," said Torre. "You find a way to go out there. I know Curt; Curt is a competitor. If for some reason it's impossible, then we won't see him. But until that happens I'm sure he's not counting himself out. He's too much of a competitor."
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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