Los Angeles Dodgers: Vicente Padilla Brings Uncertainty, Swine Flu
Vicente Padilla, who was released by the Texas Rangers and who remains the only Major League player to be diagnosed with swine flu, signed a Minor League contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.
Talk about your clubhouse distractions.
The Dodgers have long been in search of an arm, and Padilla will make a start in triple-A tonight, followed by debuting on Tuesday in the opener of a crucial series with the Colorado Rockies.
Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound like a desirable situation.
I strongly believe that signing Padilla was the wrong move. He doesn’t bring anything to the team that they don’t have already in triple-A, and I fear that his terrible track record as a teammate will be a bad influence on a young team.
People in baseball have described Padilla as “talented but not trustworthy,” and that’s just not a guy I’m willing to run out there during a pennant run.
"We spoke to him today, face to face," said GM Ned Colletti. "We told him he had a clean slate and that he would dictate how the next chapter of his career would be viewed."
Hopefully he doesn’t taint that clean slate with swine flu.
Padilla has gained a reputation for throwing at batters with no regard for his teammates, but many believe that the switch to the National League, and Padilla having to step in the batters box, will put an end to that irritating trend.
(Just do a Google Image search of Padilla—you will turn up an inordinate amount of pictures that show him fighting/ready to fight/just getting done fighting).
I still don’t think that cleaning up his off-field act resolves the situation. Many fans have been misguided to believe that signing a starting pitcher was an absolute must, but that’s not really the case.
If the Dodgers wanted to acquire another arm, they needed to have done it before the non-waiver deadline or within a week thereafter.
By sitting on their hands until late August, they have not only lowered the quality of pitcher they brought on, but they also minimized the usefulness of him. Padilla will most likely get five starts (if he doesn’t implode before then) and not factor into the postseason equation.
Even if they want him in the postseason, he has zero previous experience in October, which makes his “veteran” tag virtually meaningless.
What I think is that the Hiroki Kuroda injury sent the club into panic mode to get a new arm as fast as possible.
Kuroda, now a huge question mark for the rest of the season, has been placed on the disabled list. It seems that he had a dream the other night in which he was hit a second time by a line drive—and that spells trouble.
"The first couple of days I was afraid to watch the video," Kuroda said. "Now after I've looked at it, I'm kind of amazed that I'm alive. I think I'm just lucky."
This unfortunate injury is shaping up to be a potential mental block for Kuroda upon his return.
It might be incredibly difficult for him to get back on the mound and not make an adjustment to his delivery to protect from a liner back at him.
Yet, even without Kuroda, they still had options to fill the void without having to sign Padilla.
So why take the chance to sign Padilla instead of utilizing Eric Stults or Scott Elbert?
Short answer: I have no clue.
I would be much more comfortable with the southpaw Elbert taking the mound or even Stults, but apparently the organization has a different outlook on the situation at hand.
Padilla, despite his 8-6 record this season, doesn’t seem like the short-term answer.
The signing will only cost the team about $100,000 (a pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum, as the Rangers will foot the bill on the remainder of his contract as a result of releasing him outright), but it’s not about the money.
We’ve seen the Jason Schmidt show fail miserably already; we don’t need to see the 31-year-old Padilla experience a lack of effectiveness or a mental blowup while the Dodgers try to win a pennant.
When Schmidt rejoined the team on June 20, Los Angeles held an eight-game lead in the NL West; now, they sit just three-and-a-half games on top of Colorado. Granted, Schmidt returned to the disabled list a few weeks ago, but I still blame him for single-handedly destroying this team.
In my opinion, with the time remaining in the season, the team still has enough arms hanging around to make it through the end of the season without needing the services of Padilla.
They need to hitch their wagon to Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Randy Wolf, and the schedule allows for maneuvering to maximize the outings for the big three down the stretch.
Charlie Haeger pitched on Monday and proved that he can contribute positively to the team for the near future.
That leaves one spot in the rotation empty. They have been filling it with Jeff Weaver for the past week, but with upcoming days off, they could have avoided making the signing.
The team has three days off in the month of September, making it possible to call on Haeger and a combination of Stults and Elbert to make it through the stretch run because Torre can slim down to a four-man rotation for most of September.
Two of the days (Sept. 10/Sept.17) are Thursdays and come before three-game weekend series with the San Francisco Giants.
The other one (Sept. 21) is a Monday, and will send the Blue Crew across the country for three-games with the Washington Nationals.
I bring up these days off because they are opportunities to skip the fifth spot in the rotation and avoid bringing Padilla into the mix.
Now, I understand that in my world, I would rather have two unproven youngsters toeing the rubber instead of a Major League veteran; but this isn’t your normal veteran.
Padilla was run out of town in Texas and, despite the guarantees of Torre and Colletti, I don’t think Padilla is going to fit the need of the Dodgers.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers
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