Curt Schilling will have surgery on his ailing shoulder Monday, ending his season and possibly his career.
The 41-year-old Boston Red Sox right-hander will have the operation after a rehabilitation program preferred by the team failed to fix the tendon injury that sparked a spring training dispute between doctors about how to treat it.
"My season is over and there is a pretty decent chance I have thrown my last pitch forever," Schilling said Friday on WEEI radio in Boston.
Schilling has been out since the start of spring training. His physician, Dr. Craig Morgan, confirmed to The Associated Press that he will do the surgery Monday in Wilmington, Del.
"This could conceivably be a career-ending procedure," Morgan said. "We're doing this so that Curt Schilling will have a totally functional, pain-free shoulder for the rest of his life."
Schilling did not return a phone call but addressed the issue on his blog, 38 pitches.com.
"Coming back from this surgery at 31 would be an enormous challenge, at 41 more so," he wrote. "BUT, if that is an option at least I'll be able to make that decision with all the cards on the table, and it will end on terms I choose. I won't come back throwing 85 with so-so crap. If there is not an option to come back and be good, I won't."
He expressed no regrets and thanked fans.
"I have not one single solitary thing in any way shape or form to be unhappy about. There is a world full of people suffering far more and far worse than my shoulder," he wrote.
"To you fans, thank you, thank you, thank you. If it is all over, every single moment and memory I'll take away from my career comes with your involvement and support."
The club confirmed Schilling will have surgery but had no further comment.
Schilling ended last season, his 20th, with 3,116 strikeouts, 14th most in baseball history. And he's been dominant in the postseason with an 11-2 record, the best of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions.
In 2004, his first season with the Red Sox after being traded from Arizona, Schilling became a sports icon in Boston when he won Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series after a surgical procedure to suture a loose tendon in his right ankle. His bloodstained right sock became a part of baseball history.
He has a career record of 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, and was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series with Randy Johnson for Arizona.
Schilling spent part of last season on the disabled list with what the team said was tendinitis in his right shoulder and went 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts. Then came the postseason and he was outstanding again. In four starts, he went 3-0, including a 2-1 win over Colorado in the second game of Boston's sweep of the World Series.
But early in spring training, Schilling's course of treatment became a source of melodrama. Team physician Dr. Thomas Gill recommended rehab for a tendon injury. Schilling sought a second opinion from Morgan, who operated on the right shoulder in 1995 and 1999. Morgan felt surgery was best and rehabilitation would fail _ and potentially end Schilling's career.
On Friday, Morgan said there was no animosity between him and Gill, although he added that if surgery had been done in January that Schilling might have been able to pitch at some point this season.
"Unless you crawled out from under a rock or woke up from a coma you could kind of figure out that at least when I was asked my opinion six months ago, I didn't think that a conservative approach would be successful to get him to pitch in the major leagues, and it's six months later and he has not been successful," Morgan said. "But there's no animosity, and Dr. Gill and I are on the same page in every aspect of this."
Schilling told WEEI that "If you use a scale of 1 to 10 and 10 is pitching in the big leagues, I'm at about 3 right now," Schilling said.
He added: "I'm going in to make it not hurt anymore."
Schilling and Gill "agreed that he is unable to pitch the way he is," Morgan said.
He said he examined Schilling on Monday in his Delaware office then spoke with Gill that evening. Schilling had an MRI on Tuesday after which a decision was made to operate.
"We had a rough couple of weeks, so a lot of stuff happened over the last couple of days," Schilling said on WEEI. "I met with Dr. Morgan ... and Dr. Gill. It got to a point we had to make some decisions."
Morgan said the rehab program significantly strengthened Schilling's arm and he could throw on flat ground, but the pitcher had pain in the shoulder that became pronounced during a recent bullpen session.
Recovery is expected to be six to eight months depending on the extent of the surgery, Morgan said. Then Schilling would have to start strengthening the shoulder and throwing.
The Red Sox are deep in starting pitching even without Schilling and had the second best record in the majors, trailing only the Chicago Cubs, going into Friday night's opener of a three-game series with St. Louis in Boston.
Josh Beckett is the ace, Daisuke Matsuzaka is 8-0 with a 2.53 ERA, and youngsters Jon Lester and Justin Masterson are having solid seasons. Bartolo Colon, the AL Cy Young award winner in 2005, is 4-2 after signing a minor league contract during spring training, and Tim Wakefield is 4-4 with the second most innings pitched on the staff.
The Red Sox also have Clay Buchholz, who began the season with Boston but is now at Triple-A Pawtucket. He pitched a no-hitter in his second major league start last Sept. 1.
Schilling said he was not hurt when he signed a one-year, $8 million contract with Boston in November but knew in spring training he might never pitch again.
"I don't have any choice. If their course of action (rehab) doesn't work I don't pitch this year, and I may never pitch again," he said at the time.