Schilling to have shoulder surgery
Red Sox right-hander will miss season; career in doubt, too
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling announced in a radio interview on Friday morning that he will have shoulder surgery on Monday, and thus, won't have a 2008 season.
In fact, the 216-game winner -- who helped the Diamondbacks win the World Series in 2001 before playing a key role in title runs by the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 -- might very well never throw another pitch.
"There's a pretty decent chance that I've thrown my last pitch, forever," Schilling told WEEI-850 AM in Boston. "I'm going in to make it not hurt anymore, which is pretty much all I care about."
However, Schilling did leave open the possibility of pitching again in 2009 or beyond if he can make a strong-enough recovery after surgery. He can be a free agent after this season.
"I don't want it to end this way, but if this is the way it has to end, I'm OK with that," said Schilling.
Schilling first experienced pain in his right shoulder and biceps area over the offseason, when he was trying to start his normal throwing program. The injury was revealed about a week before Spring Training and Schilling had spent months trying to rehab the injury.
He seemed to be making progress over the past few weeks, throwing his first side session on June 3. He was able to throw from the bullpen three more times after that, culminating with a disappointing session on June 13 in which Schilling started to get an idea that he had experienced a setback.
The Red Sox and Schilling mulled over the situation for a few days before deciding the next step. Schilling visited with his personal physician -- Dr. Craig Morgan of Delaware -- when the Red Sox were in Philadelphia earlier this week. He then was examined by Red Sox medical director Thomas Gill on Wednesday before deciding on surgery. Morgan will perform the surgery. According to Schilling, Gill has asked to sit in.
"He worked hard for a couple of months trying to strengthen his shoulder," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "Then he actually did get stronger and went pretty well through long toss and initially getting up off a mound. When he had to really start to let it go in bullpens, he hurt and he really wasn't able to let it go. He was examined by Dr. Gill and at this point, it seems like the best alternative is just to go ahead and let him have surgery, that this path was not going to let him get back on the mound for us this year."
If Schilling never pitches again, his last start will wind up being Game 2 of the 2007 World Series, when he led the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Rockies.
Considering that Schilling has three World Series rings and is considered one of the finest pitchers of this era, why doesn't he just retire instead of going through the rigors of a potentially intense rehab from surgery?
"I've still got some fire," Schilling told talk-show hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. "It's one of those things where, take it for the way it's intended, I don't want it to end this way, but if this is the way it has to end, I'm OK with that. If it's over and my last pitch was in the 2007 World Series, honestly, I'm OK with that. I just can't stress enough where I am mentally with this. I have not a regret in the world. None of this makes me bitter or angry or [mad]. It is what it is. In that sense, honestly, it's very, very easy for me because of what I've been able to experience, compared to what I wanted when I first started my career. If I have some say in how this is going to end, I want it to be different than it is right now."
|"I've been blessed a billion times over and I've been given far more than I ever could have imagined."|
|-- Curt Schilling|
"We weren't banking on a full season from him," said Epstein. "We had originally approached him about sort of a half-season or a third-season plan and that wasn't something he was interested in. He thought he was capable of pitching a whole season. As it turns out, we didn't get anything from him."
By early January, Schilling knew that something was very wrong physically.
There was a dispute between Schilling and Boston at that time. Schilling and Morgan felt he should have surgery before Spring Training with the hope of returning to the mound by the All-Star break. However, the Red Sox felt that surgery would eliminate any chance Schilling would have of pitching in 2008. The sides got a third opinion -- Mets physician Dr. David Altchek -- to settle the dispute.
Altchek sided with the Red Sox, and the pitcher began a vigorous rehab program shortly thereafter.
Though the rehab ultimately didn't allow Schilling to make a comeback this season, he expressed no ill will toward the Red Sox.
"[Through] the rehab, I got strong," said Schilling. "Everybody involved is very pleased and in some cases, in Dr. Morgan's case, he's ecstatic with the amount of strength that I have in my shoulder. I remember making the comment a couple of months ago, talking about it with people, my fear was that I'd get strong and be able to do all this awesome strength stuff, but at the end of the day, wouldn't be able to pitch. That's kind of what happened.
"Functionally, my shoulder is incredibly strong. From a rehabilitation standpoint, if there isn't career-ending damage, you know, I'm in an incredibly good position to have surgery. I can't throw a pitch. When you're a pitcher, that's a problem."
Similarly, the Red Sox expressed no gripes with Schilling, despite the way things turned out.
"It's disappointing, but I think we reached a point where we weren't counting on Schill, per se," Epstein said. "In the back of our minds, we hoped, 'Hey, maybe this guy will come back and really provide a big boost for us given everything that he's done in the postseason.' We'd never bet against Curt Schilling. But we always knew that this was a possibility. Something was wrong with his shoulder and we don't know how it happened.
"It happened over the offseason, and I think the most appropriate treatment is what our doctors recommended -- the conservative route -- strengthen it, see if he can get back. A lot of guys do get back on the mound and pitch effectively just by strengthening their shoulder, and at 41 years old, it just wasn't able to happen."
Aside from the biceps tenodesis that he will undergo, Schilling is also prepared to have more expansive work done on his shoulder when he undergoes his operation on Monday.
Could there be some rotator cuff and/or labrum repairs?
"Yes and maybe," Schilling said. "Until he goes in there and gets done, anything is speculation other than the tenodesis."
Schilling indicated that things would have to go just about perfectly for him to have a chance to pitch again.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do a case study," said Schilling. "I'm 41, I've got over 3,000 innings under my belt and there was a period of time where those innings were stacked on top of each other for a lot of years. I know, when you read an MRI and it shows things, generally it shows the bare minimum. When you get opened up, you add a lot to the mix. I've got some issues beyond the biceps that I'm sure will be fixed, and I'm pretty comfortable will be fixed, but I'm very ready for other stuff to be wrong."
If Schilling pitches in 2009, he pretty much guaranteed it won't be for the entire season.
"Under no circumstance would I do anything to pitch next season as a whole," said Schilling. "In a perfect world, if there was minimal to negligible damage once it was opened up and I got fixed, coming back next year would be something I would look at as an option depending on the time and effort involved. But it wouldn't be a full season. I would come back and set it up, maybe to pitch the second half of the season. And again, that is going to be a potential [possibility] only if getting literally completely healthy is an option."
Schilling joined the Red Sox in 2004, vowing to help the club end an 86-year championship drought. He did just that, becoming a legend during that postseason by pitching with his right ankle tendon sutured into place. With the now famous "bloody sock," Schilling won Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees and Game 2 of the World Series against the Cardinals.
Lifetime in the postseason, Schilling is 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts.
Though he has put down roots in Boston, and even runs a business in a nearby suburb, Schilling is open to pitching wherever if he is able to make a comeback.
"Putting myself out there next All-Star break as healthy, and auditioning for whoever is in contention and pitching the final three months of the season kind of in a David Cone hired gun kind of thing, I wouldn't care where it was or what it was," Schilling said. "From a personal standpoint, my family is OK with that."
And if this is the end, Schilling also emphasized that he's OK with that as well.
"I've been blessed a billion times over and I've been given far more than I ever could have imagined," Schilling said. "To be able to spend the last couple of years as a member of this franchise and in front of these fans is a gift I'll never be able to repay, so this is not a funeral. It's not a bad thing. I've been given a billion times more than I ever dreamed I could get. To be able to finish it here, if that's what happens, is OK. I have nothing but appreciation and love and gratitude for the people that root for this team, and teammates of mine, so it's not a bad thing."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.