"I think modern medicine is obviously a key component for all of us," he says. "Guys are getting smarter about taking care of themselves, and medicine is helping them stay healthy longer."

But the medicine doesn't account for the numbers Schilling's been putting up for the last decade. And the numbers, though good, don't tell the whole story. They are the type of numbers that Hall of Fame voters demand, but not the type that will rival Ryan's strikeout total or Clemens's number of wins. But one cannot quantify what Schilling has done in the postseason. One cannot measure his influence on his teammates.

At 40, Schilling balances dual roles for the Red Sox: He's the pitching ace as well as the mentor for a Red Sox staff that has loaded up on young arms over the past couple of years. It's no coincidence that Josh Beckett sat next to Schilling nearly every game last season in which the two were not pitching. The 26-year-old hard-throwing right-hander relished Schilling's friendship and soaked up any advice the veteran had to offer.

"Josh and I became friends pretty fast," Schilling says. "You don't ever want to jump on people until they're ready, until they open up to what they need."

Beckett struggled in his first season with the Red Sox. There were flashes of brilliance, but he committed the cardinal sin in the American League East, baseball's most unforgiving division: He lost control of his pitches.

"He's a good kid, and he's fun to watch," Schilling adds. "My biggest concern for him is his command. If he gets that down, he's going to put up some ridiculous numbers."

Schilling understands pitching struggles. The ankle injury that cemented him as a Beantown legend threatened to end his illustrious career.

"My faith is my cornerstone and my foundation," he says. "I knew that if I went through the '05 season trying to figure it all out as it was happening, it would have been a lot harder. I accepted the fact that it was what it was and that I'd deal with it when it was over - the problems, issues, and adversity. You're counted on to do a job. You're counted on to be good, and when it doesn't work out, you deal with it. It was a personal struggle, but faith has always been a good thing to me. It got me through the '04 season, and it's getting me through today."

Schilling came out on the other side with impetus in 2006, compiling a 15–7 record (the sixth-best winning percentage in the American League) and blowing hitters away with 95 mph fastballs (resulting in the fifth-most strikeouts in the AL). But the return, according to Schilling, is not yet complete.

“I don’t feel like I pitched nearly as well as I should have consistently,” he says. “The injury is still going. It’s something I’ll deal with for the rest of my life. Getting to ’06 was a challenge, and the unfortunate part is I ran into a series of starts during the year where I didn’t match up with anybody who wasn’t a number one, and I came away with some games that I could have won but didn’t. We play in the hardest division in baseball. Every team can hit, so every start is a grind.”

For Schilling, life is a constant learning opportunity. From the success of two World Series championships (Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004) and a World Series MVP (2001) to the grueling rehab on his ankle, he finds lessons in every experience. So what’s left for the pitcher who’s accomplished what every big-league pitcher dreams of accomplishing? Another year as the ace of the Red Sox rotation in 2007, for starters, and at least another year of pitching in 2008. As for what lies beyond 2008 …

“It’s not something I’m thinking about right now,” Schilling says. “We’ll worry about that when it gets here.”