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It may not be an uphill battle

Schilling OK off mound

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Off to the side, photographers lined almost all 60 feet 6 inches between Curt Schilling and catcher Shawn Wooten.

David Wells, also about to throw off one of five mounds, chose the slab of rubber four down from Schilling.

"Too much of a distraction," Wells shouted yesterday morning. "All he's doing today is throwing a [expletive] pen. It looks like Game 7 of the World Series."

In actuality, Schilling was throwing off a mound for the first time since Game 2 of the World Series and, more important, for the first time since undergoing offseason surgery on his right ankle. He threw 47 pitches -- 36 from the windup, 11 from the stretch.

He stepped off the mound four times to collect himself, mentally as well as physically. After 10 pitches he told Wooten to move to the edge of the plate.

"Corner," Schilling said.

Many pitches appeared to be on the black. Following one pitch, however, he barked to himself, "I missed."

"I was expecting a lot more out of myself," Schilling said later. "I got through the day. My ankle didn't hurt. I guess that's a positive for people other than me."

Schilling might know his body better than anyone, but his pessimism was clearly misleading.

"You just talk to Schill?" manager Terry Francona said when he greeted the media. "Was he upset? I thought so. He's not game ready. He's such a perfectionist. From my point of view, I was thrilled. Seeing him on the mound, not stumbling, not noticeably giving way or limping. He wants to be dotting every corner right now and throwing splits, and that's just not going to happen.

"I've seen him after side [session] days in spring training just like this in other years where he can't live with himself because he didn't do what he wanted to do."

What Schilling was able to do appeared promising. Schilling said he "didn't have any [ankle] pain, which is good." While he wasn't throwing heat, he did throw all of his pitches and said his "arm feels good."

"I think his arm strength is going to be fine," Francona said.

It was pointed out to Francona that Schilling's concern this spring is not his ankle but his arm, and whether he'd be able to get his arm into shape in time for the April 3 season opener.

"I know," Francona said, and left it at that.

That bodes well for the Sox, though Francona refused to issue any predictions, saying they'd be hollow if he did.

"We're just not going to know for a while," Francona said. "I don't want the next time he throws a side to go, `God, he's ready to pitch Opening Day,' and then three days later back it off because he's limping a little bit. He's going to have some ups and downs."

Provided he feels well today, Schilling will throw another bullpen session tomorrow. As of yesterday afternoon, he said he felt no pain, only soreness.

"The bone issue, they said, is going to be 12 to 14 months of discomfort," he said. "I'm not really concerned about that. I'm sore. Soreness is good. I don't have any pain, which is better."

Presidential address
Francona was asked what he plans to say to President Bush when the Sox visit the White House Wednesday.

"Probably, `I'm sorry,' " Francona said.

The last time the two spoke was by phone when Bush called to extend congratulations on winning the World Series.

"I thought it was somebody else," Francona said. "It was real short. I was taking a nap with my youngest daughter. The whole time he was talking to me I was thinking, `Who is this?' I couldn't put a name to it. I couldn't figure it out.

"Then I hung up and got a call from [Senator John] Kerry. I said, `Oh [expletive], that was the president.' "

Tossing it around
Wade Miller threw from 180 feet and will do so again today. "Knowing what the medical people say, once he's out at 150, 180 a couple times, that's kind of the barometer for getting on the mound as far as arm strength goes," Francona said. "That was not an issue." Miller could be on a mound within days . . . Keith Foulke also threw from 180 feet despite the blister on his right index finger. "I thought his finger looked great," Francona said. "He probably won't be on the mound for a while." . . . Lee County commissioners approved a hike in the price of parking at City of Palms Park from $5 to $7 . . . A number of Red Sox will participate today in an annual golf tournament to benefit the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida. Asked who would win, Bronson Arroyo said, "Whoever's in Luis Tiant's group. He uses illegal clubs." Last year, Arroyo said, "[Tiant] used this wedge with plastic things instead of grooves that just gripped the ball. He'll use anything." . . . At one point yesterday Jason Varitek ducked into a bathroom inside a tower situated between the playing fields. When he emerged about 50 people were waiting to say hello and seek his autograph. In fact, one man was documenting Varitek's bathroom exit with a camcorder . . . Dwight Evans was spotted speaking with players near the covered batting cages.

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