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05/02/08 7:55 PM ET

Schilling could be close to throwing

Right-hander optimistic, ready to earn spot in Red Sox's rotation

BOSTON -- When Curt Schilling spent a few minutes with the media on Friday to provide a progress report on his rehab, there was a sound and a pace to his voice that portrayed excitement and optimism. It is as if the big right-hander is getting to the point where he can envision a payoff to all of the work he's been doing in the weight room virtually every day for more than two months.

"I'm closer to throwing. I don't know," said Schilling. "Close. I would argue that we're close to throwing in the next week to 10 days, probably. [It will be] a big day."

And once Schilling gets that baseball back in his hand, it officially will set in motion his goal of reclaiming his spot in the Boston rotation. And Schilling made it clear that nothing will be given to him.

Not only does Schilling have to get back to health, but he also knows full well that he needs to prove that he can be one of the top-five starters on the team. And when Schilling thinks about starting baseball games again, he thinks of the biggest games.

Schilling -- who has been sidelined since January with what the club terms "shoulder weakness" -- was asked if he felt confident he'd be able to get to the next step of his recovery without a setback.

"I've never thought otherwise. If I didn't believe, absolutely, that I would have the ball in a World Series game, I wouldn't be doing this," Schilling said. "There's a lot of things that have to happen between now and then. There's an assumption, I think, for some people that don't really think about this, which most people probably don't, but this is not about just me getting healthy and coming back. I have to be good.

"I'm not just going to get the ball because I'm a starting pitcher. I'm going to have to be good. Last I looked, this rotation didn't have a hole in it. There's a lot of different scenarios that might come about with an innings limit for [the young] guys, but I've got to come back and be good. I can't just can't get healthy and expect to come back and get a spot. That's a challenge."

Each day, Schilling shows up at the ballpark in the morning and works out with rehab coordinator Mike Reinold and physical therapist Dave Page. The work is hardly glamorous. But Schilling knows that it is necessary.

"There's a certain challenge to it, because I couldn't be farther from being a part of the team," said Schilling. "But I never looked at it as hard. It was a necessary part of what was happening. I've done it before. It's not fun. But you don't think about those aspects of it. Just like when I'm pitching, on the day I pitch, I have a list of things I have to do when I come to the park. I'm doing those as hard as I can do them, as good as I can do them, [and that's] my daily thing."

At this stage, he has passed every test.

"I feel great -- I feel strong," said Schilling. "I feel everything I'm supposed to feel."

There will be another strength test before Schilling gets full clearance to throw.

"He will be measured again this weekend," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That may lead to him starting to throw a ball. We'll see. I think he's getting closer, which is good. I don't want to try to get out ahead of myself, but I think we're getting to the point where he might grab a ball here pretty soon."

Once Schilling does release a baseball from his hand for the first time, a certain amount of anxiety will be lifted.

"There's no pain, no stamina issues, no strength loss, no lingering effects -- which is a huge plus," said Schilling. "I've said before and even through now, I haven't thrown yet. That's the big piece to this. I might go, I don't expect to, but there's a chance I could go out and throw next week and I'd just feel miserable, and it would all be for naught.

"I don't envision with the amount of work that we've done and the things that we're doing that I'm going to come back and start throwing and be out. That's not going to work. I think that we're set now to go for an extended period of time with me throwing and getting more amped up on the throwing side of things to see how far we can take it."

No timetable has been given for a potential Schilling return. The All-Star break has been a loose estimate.

"Nice try, but no, I don't know," said Schilling. "I really don't. I don't think we know. We have an idea of a timetable, but once we start throwing, like anything else, everything goes out the window and you kind of go day by day on how you feel and what you're doing."

Being disconnected from the day-to-day happenings of the Red Sox has been an odd thing for Schilling.

"I'm here and done most days, usually by like 2 [p.m. ET]," said Schilling. "And, it's like, my day's done. I've never gone through this. It's weird. It's very odd, very uncomfortable. Like I said, I try and impact the guys on this team that I'm close with at times when we have time to talk away from everybody. Then I go do my thing. It's weird. But, you know, that's part of it."

Meanwhile, Schilling will keep plugging away and look forward to the time when he is part of it again. The last time Schilling pitched in any type of baseball game was Game 2 of the 2007 World Series, and he delivered the Sox a 2-1 win in that one.

"It's been a long time," said Francona. "I think there's some drudgery that's probably crept in. It's the same every day. What I know he wants to do is throw. They've been getting after it for a while now, so the results are starting to show again where he'll be able to pick up a ball, and that's good. That means things are getting better."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.