*Jon Heyman has reported that Vicente Padilla and the Red Sox have agreed to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. He will have a good chance to win a spot in the rotation if healthy.*
Hiroki Kuroda signed with the New York Yankees, and another AL East team has interest in former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla. It is rumored that the Red Sox are interested in signing Padilla, but there is no deal as of yet.
The Nicaraguan right-hander was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent in 1998. In 13 seasons, he has played with the D-Backs, Phillies, Rangers, and Dodgers. He didn’t become a regular starter until 2002 with Philadelphia after being traded along with Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, and Travis Lee in exchange for Curt Schilling. That year he started in 32 games, going 14-11 with a 3.28 ERA. He also had 128 strikeouts and only 53 walks in over 200 innings of work. In 2003 he put up similar numbers, but in the following two years with Philadelphia his ERA crept up to 4.53 and 4.71 in 115 and 147 innings of work. The Phillies traded Padilla to Texas for Ricardo Rodriguez in December of 2005. In 2006 he pitched 200 innings for the Rangers with an ERA of 4.50 in 33 starts. He had a 15-10 record which would be the most wins in a season for his career along with a career high 156 strikeouts. In 2007 he made 23 starts, and his ERA ballooned to 5.76. In ’08 he rebounded to win 14 games for Texas and finish with a 4.74 ERA in 29 starts. In August of 2009 he was released by the Rangers and signed with the Dodgers three days later as a free agent.
With the Dodgers in 2009 Vicente pitched in 8 games going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in 39.1 innings.
On October 10, 2009, Padilla was the starting and winning pitcher in the clinching Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, pitching seven innings of shut-out ball. He also pitched well in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, working 7.1 innings and only allowing one run in a game the Dodgers eventually won.
In 2010, his first full year with the team, Padilla was the Opening Day starter after impressing with his performance down the stretch the previous season. He started 16 games in 2010 and finished with a 6-5 record and had a 4.07 ERA in 95 innings pitched. He missed two months of the season with a inflamed radial nerve in his forearm. He came back from the DL with a punch using his slow curve or what Vin Scully dubbed the “soap bubble.” The 50-mph high arching curve baffled hitters and delighted fans.
“It just reminded me — you know the children’s game where they have the little wire, and you dip it in the soapy water and you hold it up and you blow and this little bubble comes out?” said Scully. “And I was just looking at this, and I thought, ‘God, it reminds me of a bubble,’ and it just came out.”
In 2011 the Dodgers brought Vicente Padilla back with a plan to use him out of the bullpen since his injuries made his durability as a starter questionable after undergoing ulnar nerve entrapment surgery during Spring Training that February. He only played in 9 games and pitched a mere 8.2 innings ending with a 4.15 ERA and 3 saves (his first saves since 2000 with the Phillies) before succumbing to a bulging disc in his neck which ended his season early and required surgery. Although when he came back from his first stint on the DL he showed a glimmer of hope with his fastball and soap bubble, he landed back on the DL this time for good. The Dodgers lost both him and Jon Garland for essentially the entirety of the season.
It has been reported that Padilla is healthy and has been pitching 95-96 mph in his native Nicaragua playing in Winter ball. He wants to be a starter and have a place in a rotation.
Padilla has a career ERA of 4.31, a record of 104-90, and a WHIP 1.373 in 1521.1 total innings pitched. If Padilla stays healthy, he could be a great addition to the Red Sox or another team’s bullpen soap bubble and all.