ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Forget about the price of gas, Jennifer Aniston's heartache, Tony Blair's secret vacation site, Big Dig tunnel leaks, steroids in professional sports, the Yankees being three games back, guns in Damascus, the single-bullet theory, a (thus-far) 2-4 Red Sox road trip, and overnight ratings for Tommy Lee's reality TV show.
Cue Louis Armstrong's ''What a Wonderful World." All is right with the universe. Every weekend is going to be tax-free in Massachusetts stores. Starting today, ice cream will be calorie-free and we're all going to look great in our beachwear.
Curt Schilling is returning to the starting rotation.
Never wanting to take himself too seriously (no truth to the rumor that Schill keeps a podium in the back of that Ford pickup you see in the ads), Big Curt doesn't want you all to make a fuss out of this, but fan and media hysteria is inevitable. The return of Mr. Bloody Sock is guaranteed to bring a smile to every citizen of Red Sox Nation.
The Big Guy certainly looked like himself when he steamrolled the Angels in Friday night's 10-inning, 4-3 victory. He retired all six batters he faced, striking out four.
''It's the most he's looked like himself in a long time," general manager Theo Epstein said before yesterday's 4-2 loss to the Halos. ''Even his mound presence was improved."
Seeing that Schilling was healthy, confident, and painting the black with 90-plus-mile-per-hour stuff, the Red Sox yesterday announced the ace will start Thursday in Kansas City, the final game of this three-city, 10-game trip. The Curt as Closer Era is officially over.
It's unfortunate that Schilling's reentry won't happen in Fenway Park, but the timing gives Schilling a chance to play a part in some big league history yet again. If the Royals keep losing (they were going for 20 straight last night in Oakland), Kansas City will be going for the post-1900 major league record of 24 consecutive defeats when Schill takes the hill. More important, a Thursday return would put Schilling on course to be in the middle of the final two series against the Yankees.
''We didn't want to do it until we felt he was at a point where he could succeed," said Epstein. ''His arm has been resilient, but we don't want to do anything to hurt him. We wanted him to be confident about the ankle and his delivery."
This means the Sox are counting on Keith Foulke to replace Schilling as the closer by the end of the month. But after his spring struggles and summer surgery, can the Sox expect Foulke to be the Foulke of October 2004?
Epstein answered, ''Can he be himself? If healthy, I think he can be. It's not fair to ask anyone to do what that guy did last October, but he can go back to being one of the best relief pitchers in baseball."
Unspoken in all of this is the secret weapon in the person of draftee Craig Hansen. Don't bet against the Sox summoning the St. John's rocketman down the stretch. It would be a bold move, but sometimes that's just Theo being Theo.
Meanwhile, some observations from the OC:
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist.