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03/08/07 6:16 PM ET

Schilling pleased with latest outing

Sox right-hander feels he's getting stronger with every start

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his third Spring Training start -- all against the Twins -- Curt Schilling tossed four strong innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk, striking out two, as the split-squad Red Sox fell to the Twins, 1-0, in front of 7,630 fans at Hammond County Stadium on Thursday.

Johan Santana (1-1, 1.80 ERA) picked up the win for the Twins. It was the second time this week the aces faced each other.

With a targeted pitch count of 65, Schilling (1-1, 1.93 ERA) threw 60 pitches, facing 15 batters, in his four innings.

Schilling gave up the Twins' lone run in the first inning. After getting leadoff hitter Luis Castillo to fly out to center fielder David Murphy and inducing Jason Tyner to hit a comebacker to the mound, Schilling allowed a single to Joe Mauer, who scored on Torii Hunter's double to center.

Schilling set down the next eight batters, including Matthew LeCroy and Tyner on called strikes, before issuing a 12-pitch walk to Hunter in the fourth.

"I felt stronger and feel like I'm getting stronger," Schilling said. "I felt very, very good. I threw one horrifically bad pitch, and that was the 3-2 changeup to Hunter after about a 12-pitch at-bat, and I just was not ready to throw the pitch. It just didn't work. That was the walk. It was a little disappointing. Otherwise, I think we did some good things today.

"Both strikeouts were on fastballs today. I threw a real good two-seamer in to LeCroy. The second one was a four-seamer to a left-handed hitter [Tyner] after a good fastball away. I thought I had a little bit more life on the ball, and I thought we had better command, fastball-wise, today.

"Hopefully, [I'm] continuing to feel better, a little bit better each time. The last two starts, each time I've gotten incrementally better and I feel better with command [and] velocity. [I'll] just keep working on some of the little things I'm trying to get down and get into my game plan as we get ready for Opening Day."

Sox pitching coach John Farrell was pleased with what he saw from his ace.

"Today, he showed much better life to his fastball," Farrell said. "His location was good, but a focal point for him is still working on his changeup. I thought today he threw a couple of decent ones. He still has a tendency to slow his body down a little too soon and almost telegraph it to the hitter. But overall, I thought it was a much stronger performance than his previous two.

"It was a very productive day, I thought. With the arm strength he showed, the added velocity, we're seeing him get into game shape with each outing, and today was another step in that way."

Schilling, incorporating a changeup into his repertoire this spring, threw 14 of them out of his 60 pitches.

"I would say probably four or five are of the quality that we are looking for," Farrell said. "As he admits, it's been kind of an ongoing development pitch for him. But I think he's starting to get an idea of just the body tempo, the tempo in his delivery, selling it to the hitters, and just maintaining the right arm speed and the right rotation on the pitch."

Schilling concurred that he is not yet completely comfortable with the pitch.

"I threw one really, really bad one and that was 3-2 for the walk [to Hunter]," he said. "Both walks that I've had this spring are because of changeups. ... I threw some that felt horrible and I got outs with them. I went into the fourth inning with 41 pitches and, for the most part, except for one or two long, drawn-out at-bats, my pitch count has been way down as far as pitches per innings go, and that's huge."

Schilling said he may skip his next two starts, scheduled against the Blue Jays and Orioles, preferring to avoid divisional foes, and pitch simulated games instead.

"I feel like I'm way ahead of where I've been in the spring the last two seasons," he said. "Today was kind of a nice surprise as far as how my legs and how my body felt compared to the other day. I'm improving just a little bit more than gradually, which is kind of nice, both in how I feel and all of it together.

"It's kind of nice to think if I keep getting a little bit better, where I'll be in five days is kind of nice. That's one of the big things for me about pitching on three days' rest and four days' rest in Spring Training. When I go from three days' rest and I feel as good as I did on just three days' rest this time to four days' rest, mentally, I get a little bit of pick-me-up as well."

Devern Hansack followed Schilling, throwing two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk. He escaped the sixth inning when, with one out and runners on first and second -- a Tyner fielder's choice and a walk to Mauer -- he got Hunter to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"The one thing that he's always got in his favor is the ability to put the ball on the ground," Farrell said. "So when he gets multiple runners on, he's always just a pitch away from getting out of an inning. But he showed some decent poise. Things could have unraveled on him a little bit, but he stayed composed and made an adjustment, particularly after walking Mauer, to get the double play.

"He's certainly an interesting guy that's in competition for a spot here. We're trying to get him in the middle of the game right now where he's facing more of a quality hitter with each at-bat."

Bryan Corey and David Pauley each pitched an inning. Corey tossed a perfect seventh and Pauley allowed just a walk to Jason Bartlett in the eighth.

"[Corey] continues to do the job every time out," Farrell said. "He's been very dependable, a strike thrower, throwing three pitches for strikes, and I don't want to say a dark horse by any means, but he's been a dependable strike thrower for us."

While Sox pitchers combined to limit the Twins to just four hits and three walks while striking out two, Boston's offense managed just three hits, with Kevin Youkilis, hitting .412, going 2-for-3 (single, double), and Murphy (.357) going 1-for-2, with a walk. Wily Mo Pena, who walked in the second, accounted for the Sox's other baserunner.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.