Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was standing in the clubhouse at Fenway Park early in the 2008 season when a member of the team’s medical staff suggested he try human growth hormone to help overcome a shoulder injury.
“There were a few people around and I was shocked,” Schilling said Thursday. “After this person left, I turned to a teammate and said, ‘Can you believe that?’ It came out of nowhere.”
Schilling reported the incident to Theo Epstein, then the team’s general manager. Epstein was required to inform Major League Baseball, and an investigation subsequently took place.
“Our office was notified,” said MLB vice president Pat Courtney. “We take any report like this seriously and there was an investigation.”
Courtney would not say what the results of that inquiry were because it was a personnel matter between a team and its employee.
Schilling said the person no longer works for the Red Sox, something that two baseball sources confirmed. The team has made a number of changes in its medical staff in recent years, but none apparently was a direct result of the 2008 investigation.
Schilling said “two or three” investigators from MLB came to Boston to speak to him.
“I don’t remember who they were,” said Schilling. “I was trying to downplay the whole thing because I wasn’t playing at the time and I didn’t want to cause any problems in the clubhouse.
“Had I known Theo was going to report it to MLB, I would have never said anything. I was kind of mad that he had to do that.”
Schilling did not identify the person who suggested HGH to him, telling the Globe only that it was not former medical director Thomas Gill, former head athletic trainer Paul Lessard, or former strength and conditioning coach Dave Page.
Schilling responded to a Twitter user who asked why he wouldn’t expose somebody who suggested he use a substance that is banned by Major League Baseball.
“Because outing the person would not do anything for anyone,” Schilling wrote. “It wasn’t anyone in uniform, nor the baseball ops group.”
Schilling said he was taken aback by the suggestion, and that it was not made in a joking manner.
“It was right out in the open, it was sort of a conversation between 1½ people,” he said. “There were people listening. It was the last thing I expected.”
Schilling initially spoke about the incident Thursday morning during an appearance on ESPN Radio. Shortly thereafter, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said he was surprised by the news.
“Certainly this is something to look into, but it came from out of left field, to use a baseball cliché,” Lucchino told reporters at a Jimmy Fund event in Boston.
Later in the day, Lucchino said he did recall the incident and that the investigation by MLB was conducted “in a timely manner.”
Schilling signed a one-year, $8 million contract before the 2008 season and passed a physical. But he never pitched because of a torn rotator cuff and a biceps injury.
There was a dispute at the time about what course of action to take with Schilling. Gill advised a course of rest and rehabilitation. Dr. Craig Morgan, who had twice operated on Schilling’s shoulder, suggested another surgery.
A third party, Mets team physician David Altchek, agreed with Gill. Because Schilling was 41, the thought was that surgery would mean the end of his career.
After trying the team’s approach for nearly five months, Schilling had surgery in June. The righthander announced his retirement on March 24, 2009.
Schilling said he was not tempted to use HGH despite dealing with an injury that would eventually require career-ending surgery.
“I have sons, and it wasn’t something I was going to do, to take that step and cross the line,” he said. “I had been clean and I wasn’t going to do something to change that at the end of my career. I said something at the time because I was worried about younger players.”
Courtney said MLB planned to speak to Schilling again to make sure the incident he is speaking of now is the same one he reported then.
“It is,” Schilling said.
Schilling spent 20 years in the majors, the last four with the Red Sox. He helped lead the team to World Series championships in 2004 and ’07. He now works for ESPN as an analyst.