Curt Schilling was activated Wednesday after spending 21/2 months on the disabled list, and will be in the bullpen when the Boston Red Sox begin the second half of the season Thursday night against the New York Yankees.

Schilling is expected to work in relief until he’s ready to pitch long enough to reclaim his spot in the rotation after going on the disabled list April 29 with a bone bruise in his right ankle.

The Red Sox also were expected on Thursday to activate reliever Chad Bradford, acquired Wednesday from Oakland for outfielder Jay Payton after Bradford spent the entire season on the disabled list. To make room on the roster, they optioned third baseman Kevin Youkilis to Triple-A Pawtucket and outrighted pitcher Scott Cassidy to Pawtucket.

Schilling made five rehabilitation appearances with Pawtucket, the last three as a reliever after he struggled in his second outing as a starter. Boston needs help in its bullpen where Keith Foulke, Alan Embree, Matt Mantei and John Halama all have ERAs over 6.00. Foulke and Mantei are on the disabled list.

Schilling pitched on consecutive nights last Saturday and Sunday for Pawtucket at Syracuse. He worked one scoreless inning in each game – throwing seven pitches in a perfect inning then 16 when he faced four batters, allowing one hit.

“I want to be in the big leagues pitching, and I’m anxious to get back,” Schilling said after Sunday’s appearance. “I felt good today. I felt stronger than I did yesterday, which is good.”

He had surgery during the offseason to repair a tendon in his right ankle and started this season on the disabled list. He went 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA before bruising that ankle on April 23 and going on the disabled list April 29, retroactive to April 24.

In his relief appearances with Pawtucket, he had a 3.00 ERA with four strikeouts and no walks in three innings. In his two starts, he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

Youkilis hit .286 with one homer and nine RBI in 31 games. Cassidy, called up from Pawtucket last week, gave up three runs on four hits in one relief outing.

AP-ES-07-13-05 2049EDT

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