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Wild outing for reliever Padilla

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 25, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Texas — As TPLGT tweeted about Vicente Padilla, “He gets into people’s heads.”

No argument there.

The emotional Red Sox setup man beaned Adrian Beltre with a 92-mile-per-hour fastball in the eighth inning with a runner at third, but he escaped the jam and got the win as the Sox rallied in the ninth to beat the Rangers, 2-1, Tuesday night to end a four-game losing streak.

Beltre, who left the game but was able to walk off the field, was walking around the clubhouse after the game and appeared to be fine. He said he didn’t believe Padilla was throwing at him.

Padilla has a bad history in Texas, stemming from his days with the Rangers in 2009. He was released from the team on Aug. 7 of that year after going 8–6 with a 4.92 ERA in 18 starts because he was regarded as “a disruptive clubhouse presence,” according to GM Jon Daniels. The reason was Padilla was hitting batters and causing bench-clearing brawls and the Rangers feared that he would get his teammates hurt because of retaliation.

That’s how bad the situation got.

So when Padilla beaned Beltre on an 0-2 count, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington crowd booed loudly and players from both sides seemed concerned. Beltre pulled himself up and tried to get to first base, but the Texas trainers intercepted him and asked him to leave the game so he could be monitored for concussion symptons.

Beltre reported after the game that he had none, but he quipped, “I got hit in the head, so maybe I don’t remember.”

Padilla got the third out in the eighth and ended up with the win, improving to 4-0, and he continues to be one of the best offseason signings general manager Ben Cherington has made. He has been the consistent setup man for Alfredo Aceves and while at times he can cause nail-biting, as was the case Tuesday night, he’s also effective.

Padilla did not want to speak to reporters after the outing, but some of the Rangers commented.

“I don’t think he was trying to hit me,” Beltre said. “It was 0-2, runner at third, the catcher was setting up outside, so maybe he was trying to overthrow the ball and missed the location. I got hit pretty good. It sounded bad, but I have no symptoms of a concussion.”

“We were definitely concerned because we can’t afford to lose a player like that,” said outfielder David Murphy. “There are plenty of concussions in baseball now and it’s a very serious topic. We can’t afford not to have him in our lineup.”

Given the history of Padilla in Texas, did Murphy think the pitcher was purposely trying to hit Beltre?

“I really hope it wasn’t intentional,” he said. “In that situation, deep into the count, if he was going to hit him intentionally I would think it would be early in the count, so I don’t think it was. I hope it wasn’t. There’s no room for that in the game if he was.”

Losing control has been a hallmark of Padilla’s career. During the 2006 season he twice hit White Sox catcher A.J.Pierzynski and also caused a bench-clearing brawl vs. the Angels when he went after Vladimir Guerrero and threw at other Angels batters.

In ’06 with the Rangers, Padilla hit 17 batters. Over his career he’s hit 108.

Part of his effectiveness is his wildness. Hitters can never dig in.

He tricks you with an eephus pitch and then blows you away with a moving 94-96 m.p.h. fastball that blows up hitters’ bats.

In that eighth inning, Padilla struck out pinch hitter Brandon Snyder and then watched as Elvis Andrus beat out an infield hit to third base. Josh Hamilton struck out, then Padilla created problems for himself with a wild pickoff throw to first base that let Andrus get to third. He then plunked Beltre, who went down as if he’d been shot.

It was a scary moment.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine went out to the mound after Padilla hit Beltre and the boos had begun in full force, trying to make sure Padilla wouldn’t become unraveled. Valentine was assured by Padilla that he was fine, and when play resumed, he was able to retire former teammate Michael Young on a grounder to shortstop to end the inning.

“I called over to Wash [Texas manager Ron Washington] and he told me Adrian was alert and fine,” Valentine said. “It was an 0-2 pitch that run up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wind had taken that one and got away from him.”

Padilla has had several incidents with players through the years, including a verbal sparring match this season with the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, his former Texas teammate. Padilla claimed Teixeira had problems with Latin players while he was with Texas and said that he should play women’s sports. Padilla also beaned Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher when Swisher was with the A’s, so he has a long list of incidents.

But he now has 18 scoreless outings over his last 19 games. He’s stranded 87.5 percent of his inherited runners. He leads the Red Sox with 21 holds. He’s simply been one of the best relievers in baseball this season.

So a little reckless?

A little emotional?

A little off the wall?

Absolutely. But as our Twitter follower indicated, he does indeed get into people’s heads.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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