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Schilling sharper, but still not satisfied

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Posted: Friday, July 18, 2003 12:41 am

SAN DIEGO - Curt Schilling has yet to return to his old self, but one could not tell by Thursday's bottom line.

Schilling allowed one unearned run in seven innings, helping the Diamondbacks past the San Diego Padres 9-1 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Returning to the mound where, on May 30, he suffered a broken hand that cost him six weeks, Schilling continued his domination of the Padres. But he explained afterward he is not satisfied with his condition.

“I've still got a ways to go,” he said. “There's still some things that don't feel right, that I'm not doing consistently.”

Said pitching coach Chuck Kniffin: “He threw pretty good for not having his type of stuff. He may not be happy, but I sure am.”

When right, Schilling (5-4) will throw his fastball 92-94 mph through the game — and rear back to throw 95-98 mph in a key spot. But he cannot yet do that; he pitched at 91-93 mph Thursday but topped out “only” at 94 mph.

“I'm reaching back to throw some balls and the shelves are empty,” he said after throwing 110 pitches. “It's a work in progress, but command-wise I feel good and all my pitches are fine.”

His performance Thursday was certainly an improvement from last Saturday, when he lost to San Francisco in his first start off the disabled list.

“He was sharper,” said manager Bob Brenly, who begins serving a two-game suspension today. “It's almost like starting the season over for him (with) the amount of time he missed. You have to try to think back to spring training and stages that pitchers go through. They get their arm ready for a long season.

“This was a real good step in the right direction.”

In 10 starts against San Diego since joining Arizona, Schilling is 8-1 with a 1.17 ERA (the only loss coming May 24). In those games, Schilling has 77 strikeouts and six walks in 69 innings.

He did not have a perfect inning Thursday, but three of the hits he allowed were infield singles.

“All in all, I thought he threw the ball very well,” said catcher Chad Moeller, who hit a two-run triple.

The return of Schilling and Randy Johnson is widely expected to bolster the D-Backs’ stretch drive after their young players helped get the team back in contention. Johnson, who may return Sunday, has issued a caution about gradual progress similar to what Schilling has experienced.

“You figure it's going to take him and (Johnson) both a few starts to get back to the regular form that they're accustomed to and we're accustomed to,” said Steve Finley, who was 3-for-4 with a three-run homer. “But it's nice to have those guys back on the mound.”

Finley raised his average to a season-high .314. In 14 games this month, he has batted .393 with six homers and 16 RBIs, going 7-for-11 with men in scoring position.

“He didn't miss a beat,” Brenly said. “He must have been hitting somewhere over the (All-Star) break.”

Arizona hammered San Diego lefty Oliver Perez (3-4) for eight runs (five earned) on eight hits over 4+ innings.

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