Pie-in-the-eye Schilling bears fruit with Phils

Ken Rosenthal

May 28, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

PHILADELPHIA -- Curt Schilling is with another new team, but is up to his old zany tricks. In fact, he already claims two shaving-cream pie victims, describing his setup of one Phillies teammate as a "work of art."

"He fits in here," Philadelphia general manager Lee Thomas said Tuesday at Veterans Stadium. "We've got some crazy guys. He's sort of a half-wacko crazy guy, but in a good way."

Of course, we all know Schilling can throw pies.

If only he was as proficient with baseballs.

His career summary:

Games won, 7.

Times traded, 3.

Schilling is only 25, but Philadelphia is his fourth organization. Clubs think enough of his arm to trade for him. But they don't think enough of his head to keep him.

That was the case in Baltimore, and apparently it was the case in Houston. Now Schilling again seems on the verge of a breakthrough. Remember how no one liked Brady Anderson either?

It's an interesting parallel, for Schilling and Anderson were the Orioles' return for Mike Boddicker in July of 1988. The difference is, Schilling was traded again 2 1/2 years later, traded with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch for Glenn Davis.

Those were major deals.

This last one -- for fellow righthander Jason Grimsley -- wasn't.

"I liked his arm," Thomas said, sounding the usual refrain. "But I didn't think it was as good as what I've seen. Right now, he looks too good to be true."

Schilling is starting for the Phillies. He was a middle reliever for the Orioles. He was a closer with Houston. In each stop, he has been exhilarating one day, exasperating the next.

Of course, that's not unusual for a young pitcher. At the moment, Schilling is 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA, and his opponents are batting .188. But Thomas conceded, "We don't really know what we have yet."

It's impossible to predict with Schilling. He has thrown 185 2/3 major-league innings, fewer than even Jose Mesa. And he never stays in one place long enough to be judged fairly.

Anderson, of course, was the same type of in-between player, but the wacky Schilling joked that he provides fashion tips -- "Beverly Hills 90210, that's so him" -- not inspiration.

Seriously, Schilling added, "Brady's trigger might have been Johnny [Oates]. Ninety-nine times out of 100, it's a person saying the right thing at the right time."

Or, being in the right place at the right time. That's what's happening in Philadelphia, where Schilling made 16 relief appearances, then became a starter for the first time since September 1989.

Only Terry Mulholland remains from the Phillies' Opening Day rotation. Tommy Greene and Andy Ashby are on the disabled list. Danny Cox is in the bullpen. Kyle Abbott is at Triple-A.

All this, from a team that lost Jose DeJesus and Ken Howell for the entire season in spring training. Another potential starter, Pat Combs, is bouncing back from elbow surgery at Triple-A.

By default, Schilling is now the No. 2 starter. He pitched six shutout innings to beat his former Houston teammates May 19. He took a 2-1 lead into the seventh against Cincinnati on Sunday, then faded and absorbed the loss.

His next start is tomorrow night.

His opponent is none other than Pete Harnisch.

Harnisch, of course, made good in Houston last season. Schilling went 3-5 with a 3.81 ERA and eight saves, but spent time at Triple-A. Thomas first inquired about him at the winter meetings. Houston GM Bill Wood reacted coolly.

Then Schilling struggled in spring training. The Astros chose to go with veterans Doug Jones, Joe Boever and Rob Murphy. With Schilling out of options, they felt compelled to make a deal.

It seemed an amicable parting, but Schilling later read that an unnamed Astros official said he refused to go to winter ball and reported overweight. Schilling vehemently denies both charges. He gained 14 pounds over the winter, but said that was from weightlifting.

Whatever, he's getting another fresh start. The fact is, he never wanted to leave Baltimore, the home of his fiancee Shonda Brewer. The wedding is Nov. 7. Gregg Olson and Ben McDonald will be ushers.

"I was happy with my year in '90, happy with everything going on there," said Schilling, who was 1-2 with a 2.54 ERA and three saves his final season in Baltimore. "We were so close to becoming serious contenders. Now they are.

"I told every guy on this team the first week of the season. They were saying, 'Toronto is going to run away with it.' I said, 'You watch, the Orioles are going to win the division.' "

He wanted to share in the excitement, the final weekend at Memorial Stadium, the opening of Camden Yards. "I cringe every time ESPN shows highlights from the place," he said. "I'm not going to go see it until I pitch in it. I'll be too upset."

To think, that was two teams ago.

And he's still only 25.

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