11/20/08 11:15 PM EST
Schilling staying busy, weighing options
Half-season stint could be a choice for right-hander in 2009
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
He also remains a philanthropist, as evidenced by his presence on Thursday night at a Boston hotel, where he held a reception to thank all those who supported "Curt's Pitch for ALS" in 2008.
Next month, Schilling will go to the Persian Gulf as part of the USO Tour, during which he and other figures of prominence will thank those troops who are serving their country.
But is Schilling still a pitcher? For all the talk about free-agent pitchers this winter, Schilling's name hasn't come up all that much. Perhaps that's because the big righty said on his own blog in August that "the pendulum is swinging very heavily in the direction of it just being over."
But three months later, he doesn't sound so much like a man who has thrown his final Major League pitch.
He has long made it clear that his days of pitching a full season are over, but the 42-year-old could be very open to pitching a half-season in 2009, similar to what Roger Clemens did for the final two seasons of his career.
"Our plan right now is to raise our kids here [in Boston]," Schilling said. "That's one of the reasons I think that the 'play a half-year' decision was the only one that made any sense. The more I'm home, the longer I think they could tolerate it, but I think we could tolerate a half-season somewhere. It would be a lot easier traveling, which pretty much opens up where I would go play to any team at that point."
In a way, Schilling feels liberated these days.
"I think the attraction right now is I can do it if I feel like doing it," he said. "Obviously, I've got to answer a lot of physical questions, from playing catch and getting my arm healthy and throwing. There's part of me wondering, 'What am I actually going to have? Could it be better than it was over the last two years? Or is it just going to be a 42-year-old arm?' I did what I did for the longest time because of the way my arm was put together.
"My arm isn't put together the same way anymore. That's the attraction to me, is if I want to, I think I can; if I don't want to, I won't. I don't feel any pressure, which is good. I don't have to come back."
Schilling said that he'll make a decision in the near future, for the obvious reason that he'd have to start training if he's going to get back on the mound.
"I've said it over and over again. I'm not stressed about it," he said. "I need to find something else to push me to want to come back. If I don't find it in the next five or six weeks, I probably won't."
Given that Schilling is the ultimate competitor -- and that he missed the entire 2008 season because of shoulder and bicep woes -- he could well get the itch to give it another shot. After having surgery in June, he feels healthy.
"Two, three weeks after the surgery, I felt great," he said. "Dr. [Craig] Morgan told me how that was going to go, exactly how it was going to go, and he's been spot-on perfect every time I've had surgery with him and worked with him. He was right. It was probably a couple of weeks afterward when I had nothing [as far as pain], and I haven't had anything since. Range of motion and strength and stuff, I haven't noticed any discomfort whatsoever."
If Schilling does pitch, could it be for the Red Sox, the team for which he pitched from 2004 to 2007 and helped to a pair of World Series championships?
"I'm smart enough to understand -- and this year was probably a crash course in education -- that at the end of the day, it's a business," he said. "I would like to think if I do everything I need to do when I get back, and I can pitch and I'm healthy and I can compete, somebody will probably give me a deal somewhere, because I've had some success later in the year.
"I've proven I can pitch in games that are 'winner take all,' and I've done all right in those. I don't imagine there will be a shortage of bidders if I'm healthy. I also know that this team values winning a World Series almost above all else, and if there's a hole and they need to fill it and I'm available, I can't imagine, given my relationship with [Red Sox general manager] Theo [Epstein], that he wouldn't give me a holler. I certainly wouldn't hesitate, under the right circumstances, to put a uniform on for this team again."
These days, Schilling makes far different kinds of pitches. As the founder of 38 Studios, an interactive entertainment company, he is trying to compile the necessary funds to turn his business into a success. In this economy, that is anything but easy.
"It's a great economy to have to go out and raise money in, very relaxing and unstressful," quipped Schilling. "I almost welcome pitching a must-win game for just kind of a relaxation thing."
With or without a baseball in his right hand, Schilling remains active on several fronts. Recently, he has been speaking with Commissioner Bud Selig in an effort to turn July 4, 2009, into Lou Gehrig Day in Major League Baseball.
"For ALS, we'll do what we have to do," Schilling said. "Whatever benefits the association the most. I've had multiple conversations in the past week with the Commissioner about July 4 of this year -- it is the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's speech. We are working on an initiative to make July 4 Lou Gehrig Day in Major League Baseball this year. That will get a lot of my effort."
And the trip to the Persian Gulf?
"I had the opportunity to do this one time before I had surgery, right after the '04 World Series. They had fixed my ankle and didn't think getting on and off a helicopter was the smartest thing on crutches," he said. "I've got a lot of ties [to the military] even above and beyond my father.
"With Sen. McCain, I've been involved in a couple of different events in Arizona with the troops coming home. I've been involved in a couple of events commemorating veterans of the second World War, the Vietnam War, and I've always wanted to do this."
Of course, baseball and the Red Sox remain of huge interest to Schilling. Nobody has been more outspoken than he about how valuable free-agent catcher Jason Varitek is to the team.
Schilling hopes that Varitek won't have to take his catcher's mask to another city in 2009.
"I get the fact that you have so much slotted into that position, and how much do you want to pay the guy?" Schilling said. "I talked to 'Tek very briefly over the last couple of days, and I think that he understands he's at that point of his career where he's not going to catch 135 games. I'm not sure he's mad about that. It's a great situation, if you can work it out, where he spends the next two years here at a minimum and brings along the kid you want to fill that role. I think they're out trying to find that kid right now. They're kind of running parallel, talking to 'Tek and trying to make that move. I don't know that, but that's what I would guess."
As for Schilling's future, that is also a bit of a guessing game at this point.
"We're getting near the time when I probably need to truly sit down and make [a decision]," he said.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.