FORT MYERS, Fla. – Jonathan Papelbon lifted weights diligently to strengthen his ailing shoulder. Then he stood patiently in the woods, working on his duck calls so he could nab his prey and try his tasty recipe: Now that Papelbon’s offseason hunting is done, he’s optimistic his regular-season work also will be impressive. A shoulder problem curtailed one of the best seasons by a rookie closer. Boston figures the shoulder will have less stress if he pitches just once every five days, and Papelbon said it feels fine. So the homespun but hard-nosed righthander is trying to expand his repertoire. If his curveball gets hitters out the way the cola gets the game flavor out, his pitching also could be awesome. Papelbon didn’t use that pitch at all last season, when he relied on fastballs, sliders and splitters in his short outings. He had 35 saves before ending his season Sept. 1 when he felt his right shoulder joint slipping in a game against Toronto. But he headed into the offseason with optimism after pitching a pain-free batting practice session Sept. 30. Slice the duck breast into four pieces, marinate in Italian dressing and cola and let sit for 12 hours. Wrap in jalape o peppers, sour cream and bacon, then grill until the bacon is done. Grab a knife and fork and dig in. “It’s an old family recipe,” the Red Sox closer-turned-starter said. “It’s awesome.” He finished with a 4-2 record and a 0.92 ERA, the third lowest in baseball history by a pitcher with at least 50 innings in a season. Not even Mariano Rivera has done that. Papelbon loves to attack hitters. “Grip it and rip it,” he said of his fastball. “My curve is good, man. It’s just going to be a matter of getting the feel and the touch back,” Papelbon said. “All I’m going to have to do is get my curveball where my fastball, split and slider are. If I can do that, I’ll be fine.” If he is, the Red Sox rotation that looks so good on paper could be dominant. Curt Schilling leads a group of starters that includes Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield and newcomer Daisuke Matsuzaka. The media attention focused on the Japanese player has overshadowed everything in spring training, even Boston’s decision to turn its closer spot from an exclamation point to a question mark – an open competition between four or five pitchers who have never done it regularly. Papelbon was a closer at Mississippi State. The Red Sox turned him into a starter in 2003, his first pro season. But when they called him up late in 2005, he relieved in 14 of his 17 games and had a 3-1 record and 2.65 ERA. He came into spring training last year as a starter, but shifted to the bullpen when former closer Keith Foulke had knee problems. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!