Dodgers sign free-agent pitcher Padilla
Right-hander will move into rotation next Thursday
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Wednesday signed free-agent right-hander Vicente Padilla, who will make one Minor League start Saturday for Triple-A Albuquerque, then move into the Major League rotation next Thursday for Hiroki Kuroda, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a concussion.
Having already earned a reputation as a headhunter after being involved in several plunkings, Padilla was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers amid complaints that he had also become a bad teammate who was aloof in the clubhouse and unhelpful to younger players.
"If I caused so much trouble," Padilla said, "I wouldn't be here."
He wouldn't speculate on why the Rangers cut him loose.
"I think that you should ask the question to the Texas GM or manager," he said. "I really don't have any opinion on that. I'm just a ballplayer. I do what I do and I work hard at it."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre dismissed the speculation about Padilla's makeup as irrelevant.
"Through my experience, I've had players who have been questions for one thing or another, and I always felt it would be fair to judge them on the time you spend with them," Torre said. "He's here to be part of the staff and to help us win ballgames. If an issue comes up in contradiction to that, we'll deal with it. Until then, it's a clean slate."
Torre rejected the suggestion that adding a player with a questionable attitude to a first-place team runs the risk of disrupting clubhouse chemistry.
"I don't think it's a risk," he said. "We're, as a team, far enough along that if somebody is a bad influence, it won't affect other people."
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who made a strong bid to acquire Cliff Lee from Cleveland before last month's Trade Deadline, said his interest in Padilla was "expedited" by Kuroda's injury. Padilla, an All-Star in 2002, threw five scoreless innings against the Dodgers June 12.
Colletti said he never sensed that John Smoltz, another available starter who signed with St. Louis, wanted to be a Dodger. He said there were "two or three" other pitchers that have cleared waivers that the Dodgers are considering.
Torre said he has no problem with pitchers who throw inside but has no use for pitchers intentionally throwing at batters.
"First, I'm not a headhunter," Padilla said. "Second, I'm an inside pitcher and that's my pitching style."
Torre said Padilla's acquisition was supported by third-base coach Larry Bowa, who managed Padilla in Philadelphia. Randy Wolf, who pitched with Padilla as a Philly teammate, also endorsed the acquisition.
"When I played with Pads, he was great," Wolf said. "I like him a lot and we got along great. I don't know what transpired in Texas. Obviously, it wasn't a peaceful parting. He was a quiet guy in the clubhouse who worked hard and I think a second chance here in a pennant race will help him and help us."
Wolf said, when asked by officials, he didn't believe Padilla would be disruptive.
"I told them exactly what I'm telling you about my experience with him in Philly," he said. "On the mound, he'll give you seven innings. I didn't see any distraction. He had good stuff, he mixed his speeds. I think he'll do better here. It's better weather, a better park to pitch in. I think there are a lot of positives coming here."
Torre said the club had discussed acquiring Padilla even before Kuroda took a line drive off the head Saturday. But when it was determined that Kuroda would need to be disabled because of headaches, negotiations were concluded quickly to coincide with Padilla becoming a free agent Wednesday afternoon after his release by the Rangers.
Padilla, 31, is a native in Nicaragua who conducted his interview with reporters in Spanish, even though he's played professionally in the United States for 11 years.
He was in the final year of a three-year, $34 million contract with the Rangers. He was 43-34 with a 4.90 ERA in 103 starts for Texas and led the club with 14 wins last year. This season, he was 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 18 starts and missed some time in July when he became the only Major Leaguer diagnosed with swine flu. He last pitched Aug. 5, which is why the Dodgers want him to make a Minor League start first.
The Dodgers will be responsible for only the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary of $400,000, or about $100,000. The Rangers are paying the rest of his $12 million salary.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter David Ely contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.