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07/16/07 6:34 PM ET

Schilling takes big step toward return

Red Sox righty throws two simulated innings, feels great

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling threw two simulated innings from the Fenway Park mound on Monday afternoon, treating spectating tourists and media to an intrasquad showdown.

Against a collection of Red Sox reserves, Schilling threw 31 pitches, some from the windup and some from the stretch, the last a high fastball past a swinging Wily Mo Pena. It was the veteran right-hander's biggest step forward to date since going on the disabled list on June 19 with right shoulder tendinitis.

Schilling will throw a side bullpen session on Wednesday before making his long-awaited first rehab start at Pawtucket on Saturday.

"He threw the ball today better," said manager Terry Francona, "than at any point since the moment he arrived in Spring Training."

Added Schilling: "My arm doesn't feel anything like it felt at any point during the season early in the year. So I take that as a good thing."

Schilling felt so good, he said, that he was ready again to go at loggerheads with management. In late June, he expressed frustration about the pace of his rehabilitation, saying, "I would like to be back tomorrow, but they have protocol."

Said Schilling on Monday, "I think this is the point where we're probably going to start butting heads a little bit."

Francona brushed off that assessment.

"I don't see that," he said. "I think we're on the same page. I think sometimes we like the fact that guys want to pitch or play now or yesterday. ... Considering what's gone into this to get him back here, that wouldn't be very sensible to just let him go out and pitch in a Major League game and go five or six [innings]. That doesn't make a lot of sense."

"He knows that," Francona said. "He may not like it. He knows it."

Schilling has been affected by tendinitis since an Opening Day loss at Kansas City, and not just in June, when his fastball was clocked at 84 mph during his last start, in Atlanta. Sometimes he felt comfortable enough to perform -- he said his pitches had more "life" through the middle innings of a June 7 one-hitter at Oakland -- only to lose that comfort level in subsequent starts.

"I think he actually has a chance now to pitch a good game, bounce back, and pitch another good game," Francona said.

At Pawtucket on Saturday, the PawSox will host the Louisville Bats. Schilling will attempt to complete three innings, or throw roughly 45 pitches. Five days later, he is scheduled to start at Toledo.

The Red Sox have not put a timetable on his return to Boston, although that will likely wait until the end of the month.

"My goal is to come back and have an impact and literally be a trade-deadline 'pickup' [for the Red Sox]," Schilling said, referring to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. "And be effective and win a lot of games between now and the end of the World Series."

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.