Sox take chance on Padilla
A minor league deal for veteran
The Yankees made two moves that dramatically increased the quality and depth of their rotation last week when they signed free agent Hiroki Kuroda and traded for impressive young righthander Michael Pineda.
The Red Sox are debating to what degree - if any - they will respond to their rivals.
One quick way would be to snap up one of the remaining free agent starters on the market, a group that includes Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, and Joe Saunders. That would require adding to a payroll already sure to be beyond the luxury tax threshold of $178 million or trading a player under contract to create space.
Or the Sox simply could maintain faith in the idea that their rotation is strong enough already with Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester returning and Daniel Bard moving up from the bullpen.
That is the direction general manager Ben Cherington plans to stick with. Though impressed with what the Yankees did, Cherington does not see his team needing to add a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
If he is planning a stealthy move of his own to counter Brian Cashman’s coup, Cherington camouflaged it well yesterday by signing veteran righthander and occasional troublemaker Vicente Padilla to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Padilla will join Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Silva among those competing for a spot in the rotation. If he makes the team, Padilla would earn $1.5 million.
Padilla is 104-90 with a 4.31 earned run average over 13 seasons in the majors. The 34-year-old primarily has been a starter in his career but does have 93 appearances in relief.
One red flag is that Padilla has a 3.93 ERA while in the National League and a 4.90 ERA during the four years he spent in the American League with the Rangers.
His comportment also is an issue. Padilla has hit 106 batters in his career, third among active pitchers, and has a reputation around the game for being a little too willing to pitch inside.
That nastiness got Padilla thrown off the roster by the Rangers in 2009. Despite the team’s need for pitching, Padilla was designated for assignment on Aug. 8 for being a “disruptive clubhouse presence.’’
Earlier that season, Padilla twice hit Mark Teixeira of the Yankees with pitches and was placed on waivers. When the Rangers were unable to find a taker for Padilla, they finally released him.
Teammates had become fearful of somebody getting injured in retaliation for Padilla’s actions. But the pitcher wasn’t interested in changing his ways.
“We’re putting together a club and an organization that’s pulling on the same end of the rope,’’ general manager Jon Daniels said at the time. “It wasn’t a fit for us anymore.
“When we have a disciplinary issue with a player, we talk to him. It had gotten to the point where the club was better off without him.’’
Padilla also has infuriated teammates over the years by suddenly deciding to throw knuckleballs or big looping curveballs when the game is not going his way.
Padilla landed with the Dodgers in 2009 and was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight appearances. He then started three playoff games, posting a 3.63 ERA.
But Padilla has appeared in only 25 games since because of various injuries. He was limited to nine games in relief last season because of nerve damage in his forearm and a bulging disk in his neck that required surgery to fuse two vertebrae.
Padilla pitched this winter in his native Nicaragua and showed scouts an improved fastball. He struck out 13 and walked one over 16 innings.
When healthy and focused, Padilla can be impressive. He has a fastball that touches 94 miles per hour along with a slider, changeup, and curveball.
The Sox avoided arbitration with lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales, signing him to a one-year deal worth $850,000. Morales had a 3.62 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 36 appearances last season after being obtained from the Rockies in May.
Aceves, Bard, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz remain unsigned. Unsigned players will exchange proposed figures with their teams at noon today. Negotiations can continue beyond that. The Sox have not gone to a hearing with a player since 2002.