BOSTON (AP) – Pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke are making progress with their rehabilitation programs as they attempt to bounce back from injury-plagued seasons, the Boston Red Sox team doctor said on Thursday.

Schilling got off to a slow start as he recovered from offseason ankle surgery. After a stint on the disabled list, he returned after the All-Star break as a stopgap closer.

But after going 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 2004 and pitching with a stitched-up, bleeding ankle in the team’s run to the World Series championship, the right-hander went 8-8 with nine saves and a 5.69 ERA in 2005.

“Curt seems to feel in great shape and he’s really eager to attack his offseason program,” Dr. Thomas Gill said. “As he said to me, he’s got one goal, and that is to be as healthy as possible and win a world championship next year, and I told him I’ll be there by his side to make sure that happens.”

Foulke, the team’s closer, had arthroscopic surgery on July 7 to repair cartilage in his left knee. He missed two months while recovering, then was shut down for the season in late September. The right-hander went 5-5 with a 5.91 ERA and four blown saves.

In 2004, he saved 32 games with a 2.17 ERA during the regular season, and closing out all four of Boston’s World Series wins in a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We’re in very close touch with Keith. He took some time off at the end of the season and has already started his offseason program and he reports, and his trainer out west reports he’s progressing very well,” Gill said.

The Red Sox also continued the overhaul of their medical staff by naming longtime Arizona Diamondbacks head trainer Paul Lessard to the same position with Boston.

“This guy is the best at what he does and … we’re very excited and fortunate to have him,” Gill said.

Lessard, 43, has been the only head athletic trainer in the eight-year history of the Arizona franchise.

He worked closely with Schilling when both were with the Diamondbacks. Schilling “was thrilled” when Gill told him of Lessard’s hiring, Gill said.

Lessard is a Stamford, Conn., native and graduate of Northeastern University who had previously been head athletic trainer at Boston University and Holy Cross.

He has also worked for in New York Yankees’ organization for a year and with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Lessard will take over from Jim Rowe, who has been asked to coordinate sports medicine throughout the organization. Scott Waugh will return as the club’s rehabilitation coordinator, said Gill, who took over as the team’s medical director in February.

“We are pleased to make these changes that are designed to increase and improve the quality of care that the players receive in our organization,” Gill said.

The changes come in response to a new major league rule that requires each team to employ a certified, full-time strength and conditioning coach. Assistant trainer Chris Correnti was dismissed earlier this month. Assistant trainer Chang-Ho Lee will be reassigned, and is a candidate to become the strength and conditioning coach.

AP-ES-11-17-05 2134EST

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