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The new guy is now officially in the club

BALTIMORE -- We've seen Curt Schilling before and he's seen us, but yesterday afternoon was different. Shortly after 3 o'clock, it was as if everyone decided to walk down the aisle and make this relationship official.

Schilling has been a Red Sox farmhand. He has done Boston-themed commercials, including one in which he tries to master the city's inimitable tongue. He has debated old-school baseball with Johnny Pesky. He has even jumped in with some of the most serious Sox fans in the country, talking the game in chat rooms and on message boards.

Now, though, he's got his papers. If he is so inclined, he can speak with authority about what it means to be a member of the Sox. There are just 109 pitches in his Boston career, and the season is just two games old. But in that time, Schilling already should have a sampler of how baseball seasons can unfold in New England.

Schilling may be a baseball student, but there is no way he could have known that his new team would be dealing with "controversy" after Game 1. It sure wasn't like this in Arizona. Even though Philadelphia has such a creature called the Philly Phanatic, there probably wasn't any brushfire like this -- so early -- with the Phillies.

Pedro Martinez left Camden Yards before Sunday night's game with the Orioles was over. Soon after, Terry Francona was strategically blaming himself in public and making things clear in private. And soon after that, words such as selfish (for Pedro) and soft (for Francona) began entering the discussion.

Welcome to the Sox, Curt. You should know by now that, as long as you're in this uniform, you'll never be ignored nor bored.

All of that was the backdrop to Schilling's first start yesterday, a 4-1 win over the Orioles. At no point did he let the issue of the day distract him. He arrived at the park early enough to capture the attention of some of his teammates.

"You should have seen him," shortstop Pokey Reese said. "He was walking around with all these notebooks and binders tucked under his arm. He was going over all his notes with [Jason] Varitek.

"Guys were getting on him a little bit. D-Lowe was funny. He said, `If you ever see me with a notebook like that, hit me in the head, OK?' "

Schilling began preparing for the Orioles months ago and it showed. He gave up six hits, one for extra bases. He walked one man, Rafael Palmeiro, and seemed disgusted that he let things get that far. He had seven strikeouts. A few of those strikeouts came on a split-fingered fastball that plays tricks on those in the batter's box. The pitch looks like a baseball when it comes out of Schilling's right hand. By the time it reaches the plate, it falls like an overweight medicine ball.

After Kevin Millar's fourth-inning home run gave Schilling a three-run lead, it was clear the lead wasn't going anywhere. You can call Schilling a No. 2 starter if you want, but it's like saying "Othello" is No. 2 in Shakespeare's rotation after "Hamlet." I mean, you're going to find brilliance no matter where you go.

Back in November, when the dating first started, Sox fans envisioned things would be like this. Like Martinez, Schilling is a fast worker who doesn't waste time on the mound.

"He's not like a Steve Trachsel, who really takes his time out there," Reese said. "He gets the ball and he's ready to go. As an infielder, I think it's great. He helps you get into a nice rhythm."

Schilling probably did many other good things that weren't apparent to the naked eye, but he didn't seem interested in sharing them after the game. He was short with reporters who asked him to talk about his day.

It's too bad. Schilling has a lot to say. He has a sense of history, and he has strong opinions on things old and contemporary. (One of my favorite moments was watching him and Pesky arguing about Babe Ruth in spring training.)

He did say that he went into the game with a plan and that he was able to accomplish what he wanted. He seemed particularly perturbed when someone asked him what time he got to the game to begin his preparation. He provided some insight when he was asked when his nervousness subsided.

"When I left the game," he said.

His nerves became calm when he left the game. For the people who have tried to imagine how he would look in a No. 38 uniform, their nerves were calm when he entered the game.

He looked good. He looked as if he could have thrown 25 or 30 more pitches. He looked natural with a blue cap resting on his head.

The commercials with the local humor -- Pahk the cah -- are funny. But Schilling graduated from them yesterday. Visitors and tourists obsess about the way New Englanders talk. Curt Schilling is no longer a visitor. Unpack your bags, Curt. You'll be staying for a while.

Michael Holley is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

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