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The Vicente Padilla Experience lands with the Red Sox

January 16, 2012 | 12:56 pm

Vicente Padilla
Vicente Padilla, now there was a ride for the Dodgers.

No more, however, with the report Monday that he has signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox with an invite to their major-league camp. If he makes the team, the Boston Herald said he will earn $1.5 million.

Padilla spent the past two-plus seasons with the Dodgers, and he was all over the map. Sometimes brilliant, others awful, sometimes a starter, briefly a closer, and most often injured.

He’s 34 now, and with his history of injuries he’s a real gamble, though not necessarily a bad one.

It was only two years ago that Padilla was the Dodgers’ opening-day starter. As they say, you could look it up. This followed a midseason acquisition from the previous year, when a Dodgers team desperate for a starter signed him after he was released by the Rangers, and he went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Injuries limited him to just 16 starts (6-5, 4.08, 1.08), but the Dodgers took a flier on him last off-season, signing him as their swing man, potential starter and backup closer for $2 million. But his sore elbow flared up before the Dodgers could get out of camp and he had minor surgery in March.

By the time he was healthy and pitching at the end of April, Jonathan Broxton was already in decline. And sure enough, in very short order, Padilla was closing and actually looking pretty good. Alas, just not for long. He saved three games before his neck flared, required surgery and ended his season.

He’s been mostly out of sight since, and this time around the Dodgers understandably decided to go elsewhere for veteran pitching. Padilla has reportedly been pitching well during a brief stint in the Nicaraguan Winter League, hitting up to 96 mph. That's what they're saying.

With the Dodgers, he was able to pitch without beaning anyone and causing those bench-clearing scenes he was so infamous for. He was mostly quiet in the clubhouse and kept to himself, neither a problem nor valuable veteran presence. Also, he eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs in 2009.

When healthy, he was very effective. And that "soap bubble" curve, as Vin Scully called it, was something to behold. The trouble was keeping him healthy. Now it’s the Red Sox problem. Enjoy the ride.

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— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Vicente Padilla. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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