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07/31/07 11:28 PM ET

Schilling says he's ready to go

After strong rehab start, veteran could rejoin Red Sox's rotation

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Curt Schilling said he knew by the fifth inning.

But the veteran pitcher went another two frames for the heck of it, proving he is ready to rejoin his Boston teammates after throwing seven innings of shutout baseball for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in what he hopes is his final Minor League rehab outing.

In fact, Schilling said he could have gone longer if need be.

In his third rehab appearance with PawSox, Schilling scattered four hits, did not issue a walk and struck out four host Columbus Clippers in Pawtucket's 5-4 win in 10 innings.

Of course, results meant little to Schilling, whose main concern was how his right shoulder continues to feel since being placed on the disabled list since June 19 with tendinitis.

"I threw a lot of strikes, used different pitches, worked on my command and got some quick outs," Schilling said. "To get up and down seven times, warm up and feel strong is a good thing."

Assuming the 40-year-old right-hander feels no ill effects over the next few days, he could be back in the Boston rotation as early as Aug. 5 against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

Schilling is 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in 94 1/3 Major League innings this season, with 71 strikeouts and 19 walks.

In his previous two outings with the PawSox, the six-time All-Star had struck out a combined 14 batters while allowing just four hits over eight scoreless innings. Add Tuesday's start, and he's tallied a total of 15 scoreless innings.

"I'm healthy and I'm strong. That's all that counts," Schilling declared. "These [scoreless] innings don't count toward trying to win a pennant. It's starts counting again Sunday or Monday."

Schilling didn't flinch Tuesday when his defense proved shaky early, with shortstop Jed Lowrie allowing the second batter of the game to reach on a throwing error. Three pitches later, Schilling struck out Michael Restovich to end the threat.

He needed only nine pitches to get through the second, picking up his second strikeout when George Lombard went down looking to end the inning.

Schilling surrendered his first hit with two outs in the fourth on a comebacker that smacked off his shin. Again, he needed only three pitches to get out of the inning.

Asked if the ball stung him, Schilling replied, "No, he didn't hit it hard enough."

The Clippers reached two more times over the next three innings but got no further than first base, grounding out to end each frame.

"Contrary to the first couple times out, my splitter wasn't working very well tonight," Schilling said. "I just couldn't bounce it. But when they made contact, they got some ground-ball outs."

Before Schilling left for the locker room, the PawSox backed their celebrity starter with a pair of early runs. Lowrie reached on a double in the first and scored three batters later on a fielder's choice by Brandon Moss.

In the second, the first two PawSox reached on singles, with George Kottaras scoring on Bobby Scales' sacrifice fly to center field.

One-out RBI hits in the sixth by Jeff Bailey and Kottaras handed Schilling a 4-0 lead.

That advantage didn't last long after Schilling headed for the showers. Reliever Craig Breslow promptly dished up four runs in the eighth that ultimately forced extra innings.

Before Columbus' late rally, it wasn't lost on Schilling that throughout his start, he was loudly supported by the 7,114 fans at Cooper Stadium. They greeted him with standing ovations when he entered and exited the game.

This from fans in their first season supporting the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals after 31 years as the New York Yankees' top Minor League team.

"It's just Red Sox Nation," Schilling said with a knowing shrug. "It's no surprise. They're like ants, they're everywhere."

Columbus manager John Stearns called the pregame atmosphere "Major League" -- before Schilling even stepped foot on the mound he last graced 18 years ago as a member of the Rochester Red Wings.

During the 1989 season, a young Schilling went 1-2 in three starts against the Clippers.

Although Columbus is a good two-hour-plus plane ride from Boston, Schilling said it felt like he was pitching home, not in old enemy territory.

"[Red Sox] fans in every city are loud enough to make you feel like you're in Boston," he said.

If Schilling has his way, he won't have to pretend much longer.

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