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Schilling won#039;t return until after All-Star break

The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas

- Injured Red Sox ace Curt Schilling will probably need at least one more rehab start before returning to the Boston rotation.

"I think he needs to come here and throw (on the) side, then pitch a couple more times," manager Terry Francona said Tuesday before Boston's game against the Texas Rangers. "I think that's more realistic than starting this weekend. I think that makes sense."

Schilling struggled Monday night in what was supposed to be his final rehab outing before returning to the big league rotation, allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings for Boston's Triple-A team in Pawtucket.

"Physically, I feel great today. But yesterday was what it was," Schilling said after rejoining his teammates Tuesday in Texas.

Schilling had been on schedule to make his next start for Boston on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles.

The right-hander wasn't willing to concede that he won't pitch this week before the All-Star break, saying "we haven't made any firm decisions." But he knows he's still not back to his top form.

"I think it's a lot more mental now than it was before, but I still think there's some physical issues … just some inconsistency there velocity-wise," he said. "It's been a long time since I pitched a good game, and there's something to that."

Francona certainly doesn't sound like he's counting on Schilling to start Saturday.

"He was shooting for that. But he was shooting for Opening Day," Francona said. "I think the way he motivates himself is to set targets and that's great. But I think he also understands he might not be ready to pitch at this level."

One of the heroes of Boston's 2004 championship, the erstwhile Red Sox ace started the season on the disabled list and made just three starts – going 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA – before bruising his right ankle on April 23 and going back on the DL. He was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts on this rehab stint with Pawtucket.

"I need to pitch better," he said. "I mean, it's that simple, really."

Schilling injured a tendon in his ankle near the end of the 2004 regular season and struggled in Game 1 of the AL championship series against New York. After testing an unprecedented procedure on a cadaver, the team doctor made a wall of stitches in Schilling's ankle to keep the tendon in place.

With blood seeping through his sock, Schilling beat the Yankees in Game 6, catapulting the Red Sox to an improbable comeback. The procedure was repeated before Game 2 of the World Series to help Boston sweep St. Louis in four games for its first championship since 1918.

The Red Sox said Tuesday that Keith Foulke, who closed out all four games in the World Series, would return to Boston to have MRI exams on both of his knees. The right-hander is 5-5 with a 6.23 ERA and 15 saves, and two of his four blown saves have come in the last week.

"That doesn't change my desire to get back," Schilling said. "We're in first place without me, so things have gone obviously well, but the staff needs to get stabilized and we need some consistency from the rotation and from the bullpen."