Red Sox and Schilling working out deal

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2003

BOSTON - Lunch at the Schillings merely whetted the appetite of the Boston brass. What they really hunger for is a signed contract extension that would add another ace to the Red Sox rotation.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and president Larry Lucchino were in Arizona on Wednesday to try to complete a deal for Diamondbacks right-hander Curt Schilling. The two teams have already agreed upon the players, but Schilling has a no-trade clause and he wants a contract extension before he goes anywhere.

''We made a proposal,'' Lucchino said after meeting with Schilling and his wife, Shonda. ''The process will continue.''

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Much of Wednesday was spent discussing the team. The Red Sox were also planning to give Schilling the hard sell on moving to Boston; the former Philadelphia Phillies ace has expressed a desire to get back to the more intense, East Coast style of baseball, but he has also spoken fondly of his time in Arizona.

The Diamondbacks agreed Monday to trade Schilling to Boston for left-hander Casey Fossum, righty Brandon Lyon and two minor leaguers. Schilling, who will make at least $12 million in 2004, is expected to seek at least two more years in an extension that could be worth as much as $30 million.

Schilling has until Friday afternoon to make up his mind. But one thing is certain: If he does join the Red Sox, they won't have to worry about his work ethic.

''He is all about preparation,'' Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said as he waited for Schilling to decide whether accept or veto the trade.

''Curt's approach is that he expects every time he goes out there to pitch a complete game. He says, 'That's my job. My job is to pitch a nine-inning game and to win the game,''' Garagiola said. ''To that end, he is going to leave nothing undone, nothing to chance. He's going to prepare as well as he knows how, as much preparation as he knows how to do, and live with the result.''

Schilling has handwritten notebooks filled with opposing batters' tendencies that he studies in the dugout on game days, before he goes out to the bullpen to warm up. For years, on his own, he has mailed videotapes of each outing to a California company that transfers them to compact disc so that he can view them on his laptop computer.

Schilling has compiled a video library with more than 80 discs that catalogues every pitch he's ever thrown. On the road he can frequently be found in his hotel room studying them. He even keeps track of each umpire's strike zone.

That's just the kind of edge the Red Sox were looking for when they turned their front office into a haven for ''stat geeks.'' With Epstein in charge and Bill James providing the statistical analysis to supplement scouting reports, the Red Sox turned former role players like Bill Mueller and David Ortiz into a batting champion and an MVP candidate, respectively.

''In baseball, the action starts with the ball in the pitcher's hand. For this reason, the pitcher is really the only person who can 'plan' what he is going to do effectively,'' said James, who declined to comment on Schilling specifically.

''It is difficult to 'plan' an at-bat, as a hitter; you kind of have to read and react. The pitcher thus has more opportunity to use preparation and research in his job than anyone else on the field, except possibly the manager.''

The philosophy turned out to be a poor fit with Little, who averaged 94 wins in two seasons but was let go after his bosses grew increasingly frustrated by his willingness to wing it. Little would head into a new series - even in the playoffs - without calling a meeting to discuss opponents' tendencies.

His habit of trusting his gut had tragic consequences in Game 7 of the AL championship series when he left tiring ace Pedro Martinez in too long despite data that said he shouldn't.

The team has apparently found a solution to that problem with former Phillies manager Terry Francona, who seems to strike the right mix between statistical analysis and traditional scouting. Francona has met with the Red Sox brass four times and even lunched with potential free agent Keith Foulke on Boston's tab this week.

Francona also has an endorsement from Schilling, who played under him with the Phillies and said he would be a reason to come to Boston. Francona declined comment on Wednesday, and a Red Sox spokesman said no decision has been made on the managerial search.