Comparing Curt Schilling’s recovery / re-education as a pitcher to the challenges faced by Pedro Martinez circa 2002, Tony Massarotti examines the Boston starter’s mindset in today’s Boston Herald.

Curt Schilling made his final spring training start yesterday, an abbreviated four-inning stint in which he threw 67 pitches in the Red Sox™ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at City of Palms Park. Schilling™s fastball touched 94 mph, but it was routinely between 90-91.

œThe hitters will let me know. You™d hate to make the adjustment before you have to, Schilling said when asked if he may have to pitch differently at this stage of his career.

He later added: œI don™t have to throw 96 on the corners to get people out because I know where (a hitter™s) holes are, and I know where to go to get to those holes.

Spring training means nothing, but it™s probably wise to temper expectations just the same. Schilling turned 39 in November. He is roughly 16 months removed from major ankle surgery. He™s coming off the worst season of his major league career, though anyone who remembers October 2004 knows the right-hander has a get-out-of-jail-free card that lasts as long as he does.

Does that mean he can™t win in 2006? Heavens no. Like Martinez, Schilling is smart, stubborn and a fierce combatant.

And like Martinez, it may take him some time to figure it all out.

Two years ago when he went 21-6, Schilling™s fastball routinely touched 93-94 mph and peaked at 96, occasionally 97. If that velocity returns, great. If it doesn™t, Schilling needs to find ways to keep hitters off-balance the way Martinez did, particularly because his fastball is so straight that you could hang laundry on it.

Admitted Schilling: œLocation and velocity are of paramount importance to me at times.

The truth is that some of the velocity may be gone. And that absence may be the difference between a strikeout and a foul ball, perhaps explaining why Schilling™s pitch counts escalated like gas prices during much of last season. He had trouble putting hitters away. And for a strikeout pitcher especially, that can be a harsh, harsh reality.