PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) -Curt Schilling’s first relief appearance looked a lot like his last as a starter: not very good.

The injured Red Sox ace pitched a sloppy ninth inning in Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday night as he began his conversion from starter to reliever. The 38-year-old right-hander allowed two runs – one of them earned – on two hits, striking out two.

With the crowd of 10,067 chanting “We Want Schilling!” in the eighth, two other PawSox relievers blew a 3-1 lead and deprived the hero of Boston’s 2004 World Series title of the chance for a save. An inning later, the crowd rose as he loped in from the bullpen.

Schilling quickly got the first out, but that was followed by a single bounced through the middle, a stolen base and then a curving liner that bounced under a diving right-fielder in the corner for a triple. An error by shortstop Alejandro Machado allowed an unearned run to score. But Schilling struck out Tim Raines Jr. to end the inning. Many in the crowd got up to leave, including Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and two assistants from the team’s front office who came to watch Triple-A’s most expensive mop-up man. In all, Schilling threw 13 of his 14 pitches for strikes and hit 92 mph on the stadium radar gun. Schilling volunteered to go to the bullpen when it became obvious it would be a while before he could go deep into the game as a starter. At the same time, Red Sox closer Keith Foulke was heading for knee surgery.

So Schilling headed back to Pawtucket – this time to prepare for a relief role.

When he comes out of the Boston bullpen, it will be Schilling’s first relief appearance since Sept. 29, 2002, when he pitched one inning for the Diamondbacks as a playoff tuneup. His previous relief appearance was on May 13, 1992, before the Phillies promoted him to the starting rotation for good.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Schilling will combine with Alan Embree and Mike Timlin to replace Foulke, who had arthroscopic surgery to repair damaged cartilage on his left knee on Thursday. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

“This helps us avoid doing something desperate and shortsighted,” general manager Theo Epstein said.

Epstein said the team concluded that Schilling was “a long way” from being the ace who went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA before injuring an ankle tendon late in the regular season. Using an unprecedented medical technique that caused his ankle to bleed through his sock, Schilling helped pitch the Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918.

Schilling had surgery during the offseason and started the season on the disabled list. He went 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA before bruising his right ankle on April 23 and going back on the DL.

Schilling started warming up in the bullpen in the fifth inning Thursday night, then played long toss in the outfield after the bottom of the seventh. The PawSox led Ottawa 3-1 in the eighth, and Schilling was all set to pick up the save.

But Cla Meredith gave up one run and put runners on first and third with two outs. Manager Ron Johnson came out to the mound, but when he signaled for the bullpen, left-hander Juan Perez came out.

Perez promptly balked home the tying run. Midre Cummings followed with a two-run homer that made it 5-3, spoiled Schilling’s chance at a save and deprived prospect Jon Papelbon of a win in his Triple-A debut.

AP-ES-07-07-05 2219EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.