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Vicente Padilla has been a Dodger since August 2009, and when on the mound he has been a very effective pitcher. However, keeping him on the mound his been an issue, thanks in part to a nerve near his right elbow. Padilla was on the disabled list for nearly two months in the first half of last season, missing 51 games with an irritated nerve in his right forearm. Then, on February 24 this year, Padilla had to have surgery to free up a nerve that was entrapped by a muscle in that same forearm.
Padilla should be ready to throw by the end of March, and is aiming to pitch for the Dodgers by May 1. The reason Padilla's recovery is expected to be so quick is that he is coming back as a reliever, and doesn't have to build up his arm strength, at least right away, to be able to pitch five or six innings at a time. The injury risk (he also missed several weeks at the end of last season with a herniated disc in his neck) led to Padilla signing a contract with a low base salary this winter ($2 million) which includes several incentives whether Padilla starts or pitches in relief.
When the Dodgers signed Padilla in August 2009, there was a different kind of nerve they had to worry about. Padilla had regressed in Texas, and a series of beanballs -- specifically against ex-Ranger Mark Teixeira -- did not sit well with his own clubhouse. Upon Padilla's release in Texas, Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels was literally congratulated by several Rangers. However, Padilla the Dodger has turned a corner and, more importantly, has improved greatly on the mound.
In three and a half seasons in Texas, Padilla had a 93 ERA+, and walked 3.4 batters and had 6.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Since rejoining the National League with the Dodgers, Padilla has a 102 ERA+, has reduced his walk rate to 2.4 batters per nine innings and increased his strikeouts to 8.2 per nine innings. Padilla likes it in Los Angeles, too, saying that he didn't even bother to pursue other teams that were interested in his services.
Padilla gives the Dodgers depth this season. He has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever (his fastball averaged 92.4 mph as a starter, and figures to get better in short stints), which is what his role will be when he comes back, and can also fill in as a starter if a long-term need arises.
When he was 21 years old, in 1998, Padilla pitched for Nicaragua in the XXIII Baseball World Cup, in which his home country took home the bronze medal.
Padilla signed a one-year deal for $2 million, with up to $6.8 million in performance bonuses in relief, or up to $8 (or possibly $9) million in bonuses while starting. In addition, Padilla will be paid a $1 million signing bonus from last year's contract on April 1 of this year.
|2011 Projections - Age 33 Season|
I like Padilla's stuff in the bullpen, and he should excel in a relief role. While he can start if needed, it would take some time to build up his arm strength so unless there is a long term need for a starter Padilla will stay in the bullpen. I like the chances of the front five starters to stay healthy (even though we all know it's nearly impossible to use so few starters all season), so I'll guess zero starts for Padilla, and a 3.74 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts in 53 innings.
What is your prediction? Be sure to guess Padilla's ERA, number of starts, and number of innings pitched for the Dodgers, plus anything else you would like to predict.