NEW YORK -- As it turns out, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was practicing anything but hyperbole when he said a week ago that the team's medical staff would "try anything under the sun" to get big right-hander Curt Schilling back on the mound for this American League Championship Series.
It took some practical medical creativity to come up with a way for Schilling to pitch.
While it became very public that Schilling was going to try and use a custom-made high-top shoe from Reebok to help support his ailing right ankle, the Red Sox kept the master plan private.
"A day or two after Game 1 when we let the swelling and soreness come back to normal, it was determined that we were going to try everything to try to stabilize the tendon," said Epstein. "And one of the scenarios identified as a last-ditch scenario was suturing the skin down to the deep tissue, creating a seal or tunnel that would house the tendon and wouldn't allow the tendon to move back over the bone."
As it turns out, that last-ditch scenario wound up being a stroke of genius that enabled Schilling to pitch seven stellar innings (four hits, one run) in Tuesday's Game 6 victory.
The medical staff applied the treatment in the hours leading up to Monday's Game 5. Schilling determined that the high-top shoe was putting too much pressure on the stitches, so he went back to the low-top.
Epstein credited the idea as the classic case of collaboration.
"I think it was sort of independently thought of by three different people on the training staff and the doc," said Epstein. "Everybody was thinking, 'Well, is there some way to strap it down? Can we just screw that tendon to bone? What can we do here?' No. But this is the sort of practical alternative."
Unlike Game 1, when Schilling looked wobbly from the very beginning wearing a brace, he appeared more sound on the mound in the early stages of Game 6.
"After the first pitch, I was pretty happy with his delivery," said Epstein. "But after that, I was pretty nervous through the whole thing, especially when he had to cover first, because you never know what kind of force might impact the sutures and the tendon, but it went really well."
So well, in fact, that if the Red Sox advance to the World Series with a win Wednesday night, the medical staff is already poised to go through the process again.
"If his physical condition is exactly as it was yesterday, the next time he's going to pitch, we'll probably put them back in," said Epstein.
Bellhorn moves back up: Mark Bellhorn's three-run homer in Game 6 -- combined with success he's had in his career against Kevin Brown -- convinced Red Sox manager Terry Francona to move him back to the second slot in the order.
The switch-hitter moved down to ninth the previous three games.
"Bellhorn has been our two hitter for the better part of the year," said Francona. "He was struggling early in the series and we were trying to take the heat off of him. As long as he's feeling good, I like him hitting second."
Pedro Martinez / P
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
All hands on deck: As in virtually any Game 7, the Red Sox had everyone on their pitching staff -- with the exception of Schilling -- ready to participate. Perhaps the most intriguing wild card is ace Pedro Martinez, who threw 111 pitches just two days before Game 7.
Martinez worked closely with the training staff over the last couple of days to do everything in his power to get his arm back in shape to pitch an inning or two.
"He's in [the bullpen]," said Francona. "Depending on what Derek [Lowe] does or how far he gets, Pedro could be after [Tim Wakefield] or he could be right after Derek. The one thing we can do with Pedro that we probably don't feel as comfortable with Wake is bringing him in with men on base. That's something to think about. But we also have to be careful, if we warm Pedro up, I don't think we want to get him up three times. We'll try and use the best judgment we can."
Why did Francona go with Lowe instead of Wakefield?
"I think just adding it all up, if all things are equal, Derek might be able to stay out there longer," said Francona. "We know where we're at. We know exactly what we want to do and we know if things don't go well, what we're gonna do. we're all set to go."
Keith Foulke / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Foulke likely to answer bell again: Despite throwing a whopping 100 pitches over the last three days, Francona seemed to have little doubt that iron man closer Keith Foulke would be ready to answer the bell again in Game 7.
"[I'm] extremely confident that he'll be ready to pitch," said Francona. "He's kind of a rare breed. He will pitch any time you give him the ball."
While Epstein signed Foulke in large part because of the right-hander's durability, even he has been stunned at just how capably the closer has handled a most grueling workload.
"We had expectation that he could do more than what a traditional closer is used to doing," said Epstein. "But what he's done the last three or four days is almost superhuman. I couldn't imagine a relief pitcher assuming this workload and pitching this well. It's shocking to me, but I'm loving every minute of it."
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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