BOSTON (AP) – Jonathan Papelbon’s sore shoulder is feeling much better. The Boston Red Sox hope his transition from reliever to starter also goes smoothly.

As a rookie, he was a dominant closer for most of last season with an 0.92 ERA and 35 saves. But his last appearance was on Sept. 1. A sore shoulder, perhaps the result of pitching so often, ended his season.

Now Papelbon, a starter in the minors, is headed back to that role in a rotation that also should include Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield.

“The fact that he’s been a successful starter through his minor league career” should help, new pitching coach John Farrell said Monday. “Getting a ground ball double play in certain situations will be, I think, a cornerstone to him getting back to a starter that can eat up innings.”

Farrell was in Boston to meet with manager Terry Francona and some pitchers. He spent the past five seasons as Cleveland’s director of player development before being hired Oct. 16 to replace Dave Wallace, whose contract was not renewed.

With the Indians, Farrell knew Fausto Carmona, a rookie who started three games last April and four in September but worked out of the bullpen the rest of last season because the team needed help there.

“There’s been other recent examples where the individual pitcher has shown that he’s got the mental capability of going through an American League lineup two or three times and he’s remained in that role,” Farrell said. “Does he have enough stuff and enough weapons to attack left-handers and right-handers multiple times through the order?”

Francona said Papelbon is “really doing great” in his recovery from the shoulder problem and understands better what he must do to take care of his arm.

Two other young relievers, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, pitched more than Francona would have liked because of injuries to veterans Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke.

“For a while, they really did a pretty good job,” Francona said. But there were stretches when “they had a tough time, but I think they’ll learn from it and be good.”

Another young pitcher who excelled when he joined the team in early June, then struggled, also drew praise from Francona. Jon Lester is being treated for anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a type of cancer that forms in the body’s lymph system.

Limited by privacy issues, Francona said, “the only thing I think I’d feel comfortable saying is his spirit is unbelievably positive and I think he’s doing fantastic.

“I’m very proud of his ability to handle this.”


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