FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Curt Schilling said Thursday he will become a free agent after the season but won't let that be a distraction during his fourth year with the Boston Red Sox.
General manager Theo Epstein wouldn't rule out in-season discussions for a new contract.
At a brief meeting between the two Wednesday, Epstein told the pitching ace that the team would not give him an extension during spring training, as Schilling had wished.
"Curt's going to be 41, and at that age we've got to be a little more conservative," Epstein said. "It doesn't mean we don't want him back. I have all the confidence in the world that if Curt wants to pitch in 2008 and he's still pitching effectively, as I expect he will, then we'll find a way to keep him in a Red Sox uniform."
He also said Schilling would be the Opening Day starter April 2 in Kansas City and "I couldn't be happier about that."
Schilling struggled late last season and went 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA. Bothered by injuries in 2005, he was 8-8 with a 5.69 ERA. But in 2004, his first season with Boston, he was 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA and a star of Boston's World Series sweep of St. Louis.
Late last month, Schilling said he wanted to play in 2008 after stating previously that he would retire after the 2007 season. Schilling, who represents himself, also said he would play for the same amount he's making this season, $13 million, but he wouldn't negotiate after Opening Day.
On Thursday, he said he was "disappointed" but understood the club's position. He also said he would not negotiate with the Red Sox during the 15 days following the World Series, when they are the only club allowed to discuss money with him.
"I will file for free agency at the end of the season and they know that," Schilling said.
Manager Terry Francona, who also managed Schilling in Philadelphia, indicated the pitcher could alter his stance.
"He was also going to retire," Francona said. "You know what I'm saying. Things change."