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Simulation is a real success for Schilling

CLEVELAND -- If the Red Sox manager were cast in a movie remake, he'd fit nicely as Monty Python's Black Knight. A missing arm? '' 'Tis but a scratch." Neither arm? ''Just a flesh wound."

''We're always trying to look for positives," Terry Francona said yesterday afternoon. ''You guys know me well enough. But it wasn't hard today."

He was speaking after watching Curt Schilling's three-inning simulated game at Jacobs Field. Wearing a regular, low-top cleat on his right ankle, the Sox ace threw about 60 pitches and came away with an emotional state that was equal parts confidence, relief, and ecstasy.

''I felt today was the first time I really was thinking about nothing but pitching when I was on the mound since probably last May," Schilling said. ''I wasn't thinking about the ankle when I was throwing. I was thinking about pitching. That's a positive.

''I feel like I'm ready to get out there on a rehab."

But he won't go quite yet. Schilling and the organization previously targeted a rehab start for Saturday. Instead -- and this was decided before he went to the mound yesterday -- he will pitch one more simulated game, Friday in Philadelphia.

''One of the things [the coaching staff] said today was there will be fewer restraints in that rehab start I eventually make if I throw another [simulated game], get stretched out to 85, 90 pitches," he said. ''I feel now I'm ready to do that. It's not my call."

Schilling, at this rate, doesn't figure to make a rehab start until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Yesterday he backed off his goal of pitching before the All-Star break, at least outwardly, but did say, ''I have [a timetable] in my head, and I'm going to keep pushing for that to work."

Most likely, Schilling is eyeing two rehab starts -- June 28 or 29 and July 3 or 4. That would make it possible for him to return July 8 or 9 at Camden Yards. The team's last game before the break is July 10.

''I thought he was great," Francona said. ''I was surprised the way he commanded. He didn't have the boot, he didn't have it taped, he was out there pitching without any protective device. It was a great sign. He had good balance.

''He made a good case for going out and pitching [in a rehab start]. I just think we think this is the responsible thing to do on our part. If this is Oct. 5 we let him pitch Saturday. But we need him to come back and have the chance to be the type of pitcher he can be."

Schilling, on the topic of wearing his normal, low-top cleats, said: ''I think I need [added shoe support] less and less, and I just think it was going to be something that would be prohibitive more than helpful. So we're going to try to stay with the regular shoes."

After he pitched he performed fielding drills.

''I can feel a difference in the way that I move right now," Schilling said. ''I think that's going to be part of it for an extended period of time. First step, moving right to left, is a difference. It's not prohibitive. I can field my position, covering bases."

All -- or many -- stars

All-Star Game roster announcements won't be made until July 3, but there's one position in particular that's effectively locked up: designated hitter. David Ortiz (1,749,956 votes) leads Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro by more than 1.3 million votes. Yes, that's correct; Palmeiro has 441,449 votes. Jason Varitek's grip on the starting catcher spot is solid, as he leads Detroit's Iván Rodríguez by about 360,000 votes. Despite what has been perceived as a subpar season, Manny Ramírez is likely to start in the outfield. He leads all AL outfielders with 1,261,827 votes, followed by Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki (1,219,510) and the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero (1,198,198). Johnny Damon is running fourth, 81,827 votes behind Guerrero for the last starting spot . . . Edgar Renteria, who went 2 for 5 with a pair of doubles to raise his average to .270, had his left wrist heavily wrapped after the game. The Sox shortstop indicated the wrist is ''very sore" and that he injured it six days ago swinging the bat in a game. ''[The trainers] told me I needed to rest it, but I haven't had a chance to," said Renteria. ''If it gets worse, I'll have to take a rest for a while. We'll see how it feels tomorrow" . . . Adam Stern is expected to return to the Pawtucket lineup tomorrow, having missed more than three weeks with a strained hamstring. The Rule 5 outfielder will be allowed 10 more days on a rehab stint and then must be called up to the Sox or returned to the Atlanta Braves. The Sox love Stern's arm (it would be the best in their outfield) and his speed (he'd be the fastest player on the team) . . . Ramírez's fourth-inning homer was the 405th of his career and 127th at Jacobs Field, most of any park in the big leagues . . . A sign in right field at Jacobs Field reminds fans of the 455 consecutive sellouts recorded between the stadium's opening in 1995 and the 2001 home opener. The Sox could make a run at that. Colorado is second all time at 206, but that streak, like Cleveland's, ended some time ago. The Sox, at 177, have the longest active sellout streak and third-longest all time.

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