Aces healthy, raring to go

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Kevin Millwood and Curt Schilling begin this season without questions about their health. But not on the same team, as they could have been.

Millwood chose to sign with Texas over Boston and immediately was picked as the Rangers’ starter for opening day, which is Monday against Schilling and the Red Sox.

“It’s a little bit ironic,” said Millwood, who won last year’s AL ERA title with Cleveland. “I want to do well at home, especially against the Red Sox. But not because I could have been a Red Sox. … I don’t feel I have anything to prove. I just want to get off to a good start.”

Texas fans won’t have to wait to see their new $60 million ace, who signed a five-year deal.

The Rangers open at home for the first time since 2000.

Schilling started last season on the disabled list after surgery to repair a tendon in his right ankle. (Remember the bloody sock in the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox won their first world championship since 1918?)

Schilling went 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA after returning, then bruised that ankle and went on the DL for another 2 months before coming back as a closer. Now he is back at the top of the Red Sox rotation.

“He doesn’t have to go out and throw a two-hitter on opening day, but he’s healthy. … He’s strong as a horse and he’s going to compete,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

“It’s been two years since I’ve been the guy I was,” Schilling said. “Until I do what I did before, there’s a lot of questions. I’m healthy, my arm feels good.”

Like Millwood, Schilling pitched in only two major league exhibition games. That wasn’t a sign of any problems for the right-handers, who opted to prepare in other ways.

“Schilling against Millwood. I can’t wait,” Texas catcher Rod Barajas said.

“Millwood is exactly what this team needed. We needed his ability, his presence and his leadership.”

Millwood was 9-11 with a 2.86 ERA in 30 starts during his only season in Cleveland. He was limited to 25 games for Philadelphia in 2004 because of swelling in his right elbow.

The Texas rotation has changed completely since last season’s opener, including a last-minute twist due to injury.

No. 2 starter Adam Eaton, acquired in a trade from San Diego, will have surgery on a tendon in the middle finger on his pitching hand and miss up to three months.

The Rangers have gotten three pitchers in three trades since Eaton was hurt Wednesday.

Texas traded popular outfielder David Dellucci to Philadelphia late Saturday night for right-hander Robinson Tejeda and minor league outfielder Jake Blalock, the younger brother of Rangers two-time All-Star third baseman Hank Blalock.

They got left-handers John Koronka from the Chicago Cubs and John Rheinecker from Oakland on Friday.

“The Eaton injury changed the dynamics of what we were working with,” general manager Jon Daniels said.

With Gary Matthews Jr. (strained ribcage) on the disabled list, the Rangers have only four outfielders. Brad Wilkerson will switch to left to replace Dellucci, and Laynce Nix, coming off shoulder surgery last year, starts in center. Kevin Mench will be in right, with Adrian Brown and utility infielder Mark DeRosa the outfield backups.

Boston’s 25-man roster was pretty much set at the start of spring training, the substantial change being right-hander Bronson Arroyo’s trade to Cincinnati for outfielder Wily Mo Pena.

The entire starting infield is new: first baseman Kevin Youkilis, second baseman Mark Loretta, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and third baseman Mike Lowell. Coco Crisp replaces Johnny Damon in center field.

Notes: Rangers owner Tom Hicks’ alma mater will have a big part in opening day. Texas football coach Mack Brown, whose team is the reigning national champion, and former Longhorns championship coach Darrell Royal will take part in the first-pitch ceremony. The school’s band will be on the field before the game.

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