Boston Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling is still questionable to pitch in the American League Championship Series, Manager Terry Francona said. Schilling, one day after throwing his first bullpen session after Game 1, continued to have soreness in his injured right ankle Saturday.

"He's having the usual after-throwing soreness," Francona said. "Nothing more and not much less. Probably what I said [Friday] still stands. We have not closed the door on his season."

Francona said Schilling, 21-6 during the regular season, would only pitch if he was not endangering himself and his availability would not be determined whether the Red Sox were on the verge of elimination.

"He's very hungry to pitch, and we spoke about . . . how he looked forward to this possible matchup as far back as Thanksgiving last year," Francona said. "I'm sure that was kind of tough for him and us, too. I think he feels like we do, that this door isn't closed."

Kline Ailing

Cardinals left-handed reliever Steve Kline rejoined the team Saturday but was unavailable to pitch, one day after visiting a hand specialist in St. Louis to examine his injured left index finger. Manager Tony La Russa said he was hopeful Kline would be able to pitch later in the series.

Kline has a torn flexor tendon, which will require offseason surgery. According to the Cardinals, the injury has been exacerbated by "gout-related" complications.

Kline pitched in the Cardinals' Game 2 win Thursday night, but acknowledged having trouble gripping the ball and was in visible pain afterward, at one point predicting he was "done" for the postseason. . . .

Astros ace Roy Oswalt has been receiving injections of a numbing agent to ease pain in his strained rib cage muscles prior to his starts for much of the season, and will receive another one before his scheduled start Sunday in Game 4.

"It's just something that's kind of lingering," Oswalt said. "It would probably heal if I had 15 or 20 days off. But we're not going to get that right now. " . . .

When Phil Garner took over as manager of the Astros at the all-star break, replacing the fired Jimy Williams, he kept center fielder Carlos Beltran in his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order for about a month.

But with the offense struggling in mid-August -- and the Astros languishing on the outer fringes of the playoff race -- Garner decided to move Beltran into the No. 2 spot, with Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent sliding up to Nos. 3, 4 and 5.

It was right around then that the Astros launched into their closing kick of 36 wins in their final 46 games to seize the wild card.

"I'm fooling around [with some statistics] one day," Garner said, "and I noticed Beltran hit well in the second spot. I decided to move him up there. "

For the season, including his time in Kansas City, Beltran batted 44 points higher (.280 versus .236) as a No. 2 hitter than as a No. 3 hitter.

Arangure reported from Boston, Sheinin from Houston.