BOSTON - Curt Schilling could be throwing off a mound by January after having shoulder surgery yesterday that keeps him on target to pitch by the middle of next season if he decides to return.

The Red Sox former ace had his right biceps tendon and labrum repaired and there was no meaningful rotator-cuff problem as feared, Dr. Craig Morgan told the Associated Press after completing the operation in Wilmington, Del.

"This really is a best-case scenario," Morgan said by cell phone after the 1-hour, 45-minute procedure. "The pathology or the disease process was as we expected with no surprises and the rotator cuff was better than we expected."

He did put one stitch in the rotator cuff that won't lengthen the recovery period, he said.

"The one thing we can't do," Morgan said, "is make him 28 again."

The 41-year-old righthander, who hasn't pitched this season, decided last week to have the operation after the rehabilitation the team preferred didn't relieve the pain he felt when throwing from a mound at far below maximum effort.

Schilling said he knew surgery would end his season - and possibly his career - especially if the rotator cuff had torn away from the bone. But he felt he had no choice if he wanted to pitch again.

Chances of pitching again seem more likely after the operation.

"He wants to pitch 1 more year if it's structurally possible with the type of surgery that went on," Morgan said. "My answer is: It is structurally possible if all goes well with the healing process, and I don't have control over that."

Schilling announced plans for season-ending surgery last Friday on Boston-based WEEI radio and said he could be a "hired gun" who joins a contending team for the last 3 months of the 2009 season. But he also told the station there's a "pretty decent chance that I've thrown my last pitch forever."

Schilling is signed only for 2008 at $8 million.

General manager Theo Epstein has said he has not ruled out re-signing Schilling.

Schilling's 11-2 postseason record is the best of any pitcher with 10 or more victories and he has a 2.23 postseason ERA in 19 starts.

In 20 years - including 8-plus with the Phillies - he is 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in the regular season and ended last season with 3,116 strikeouts, 14th most in history. In four seasons with Boston after being traded from Arizona in November 2003, he is 53-29. He also contributed to two World Series titles with the Red Sox after winning one with Arizona in 2001. *