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The first thrill from Schilling

He's way ahead of hitters in session

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Things are starting to come together. Eight days after pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, the Red Sox yesterday passed a milestone as Curt Schilling pitched to batters for the first time since he returned to the organization after a 15-year absence.

The batters -- Brian Daubach, Adam Hyzdu, and Cesar Crespo -- had little luck against Schilling, partly because pitchers generally are ahead of hitters this early in camp but also because Schilling was relatively sharp.

"Pretty good for his first day," Daubach said as Schilling's first fastball whistled by. Six years earlier, Daubach collected his first hit in the majors off Schilling, a double for the Marlins.

Schilling threw 45 pitches during the 12-minute session, mixing his fastball, curve, and splitter with a cutter he is trying to develop.

"Well, if he wants to make it in this league, he better step it up a notch," catcher Jason Varitek joked. "No, he was very impressive. Every day so far he's been a constant professional."

No one trained a radar gun on Schilling, which was hardly the point so early in camp. He declared himself satisfied with the practice, particularly because facing hitters amps up a pitcher's adrenaline more than throwing in a bullpen.

"I had some things I wanted to accomplish and I felt like we did that," Schilling said. "I think my No. 1 goal right now is for Jason and I to get comfortable, where we're able to communicate without talking when I'm on the mound. He's starting to understand me and I'm starting to get a feel for him."

As for his sharpness, Schilling said, "It's hard for me to get a read on stuff, with the batting cage and screen and everything, but I feel good. Physically, I feel great."

He also appeared intensely focused.

"Even in batting practice, he's serious," pitching coach Dave Wallace said. "It's not fun and games out there. He likes to get ready and prepare, and that always makes you feel good."

Schilling is scheduled to make his first start of the exhibition season against Northeastern at City of Palms Park Friday. He said he expects to throw 28-32 innings in spring training, which is considerably more than any Sox pitcher worked last spring (John Burkett ranked first with 21 innings).

Schilling said he has spent between 30 minutes and four hours daily for six weeks studying videos of the Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Devil Rays and compiling handwritten notes to prepare for the season. He will not face any of them in spring training.

Double duty The David McCarty experiment entered a new phase as he faced batters for the first time in five years. The lefthander, who has not pitched regularly since high school, is trying to prove he can help the Sox out of the pen in addition to his roles as a righthanded bat off the bench and defensive replacement at first base.

He fired 25 pitches to Kevin Youkilis and Terry Shumpert.

"It went OK, not great, but not bad for the first time out," McCarty said. "I was pretty happy with the fastball and the changeup, and the split went real well. The slider was awful."

Both Wallace and McCarty agreed the most important test will come today, when they determine how McCarty has recovered physically from the session.

"That's the big thing," Wallace said, "because you can throw all you want out of the pen, but once you face live hitters, the intensity kicks in."

McCarty felt no immediate discomfort, though he was exhausted from competing for the dual role. He took batting practice in addition to throwing it.

"It's nap time," he said. "It was a pretty heavy load."

Good first impression Manager Terry Francona said his first impression of Manny Ramirez suggests the slugger may have been mischaracterized by some in the media. "Just from being here for a couple of days, it looks to me like he has a very good way of getting misunderstood by people, probably from your side of it more than ours," Francona said. "I've had a very good early impression of Manny. I just think he wants to do the right thing. That's fine with me. I think he's going to do really, really well." . . . Wallace said Pedro Martinez may throw off a bullpen mound for the first time as early as today, though Martinez said he will determine how he feels today. Francona generally has left it to the pitchers to set their preparation schedules. Once Martinez begins working in the pen, he should be cleared to throw live batting practice a week or so later, Wallace said. The Sox have not projected when the ace will make his Grapefruit League debut. Keith Foulke, who worked in the bullpen yesterday after missing several days with a mildly strained left calf, also prefers a lighter workload early in camp, as does Scott Williamson . . . Rule V lefty Lenny DiNardo underwent an MRI, which showed no structural damage to his sore pitching shoulder. He is expected to be sidelined for about another week . . . Temperatures were in the low 50s with brisk winds for much of the workout, the third day out of four since the full squad reported that the weather has been less than hospitable . . . It was picture day, as the players wore their white uniforms for the first time and navigated through a number of photo stations.

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