Padilla set to pitch Dodgers' opener
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Going into his 11th major-league season, Vicente Padilla has earned an accolade he's never experienced — being the opening day starter.
Padilla will get the nod for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their opener April 5 at Pittsburgh, five months after a gunshot wound to his leg nearly ended his career.
Manager Joe Torre said yesterday that Padilla's performance in the playoffs last season helped land him the spot.
"I'm very happy he had the confidence for me to pitch the first game," Padilla said through a translator. "I'm really grateful."
The right-hander allowed just one earned run over 14[0xb0] innings in his first two career playoff appearances for the Dodgers before losing Game 5 of the NL championship series to Philadelphia.
"We just had to pick somebody and he was the one," Torre said. "Am I going to say he's better than the other guys? I can't do that. We just decided to line them up that way."
Padilla got a one-year deal worth more than $5 million with the Dodgers in January after being signed as a free agent late last season. He went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts, bolstering the NL West champions' inconsistent roster.
"I wasn't really expecting it, but whatever role he gives me, I'll try my best," Padilla said. "This is something really big for me."
Padilla was injured Nov. 3 in his native Nicaragua while, he said, practicing with a handgun that jammed. He said a friend was trying to fix the problem when the gun accidentally fired, striking Padilla's upper right thigh.
He has shown no ill effects this spring from the incident. He is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts.
SHEETS CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE
Ben Sheets insists everything is fine, even as the Oakland right-hander continues to sputter along this spring.
Less than two weeks before the Athletics open the season at home against the Seattle Mariners, Sheets is still struggling with his command and getting hit hard. His latest outing: three runs and nine hits in six-plus innings against minor leaguers yesterday.
That's not exactly what Oakland was hoping for when they signed Sheets to a $10 million, one-year contract in the offseason, but neither Sheets nor A's manager Bob Geren is overly concerned just yet.
"I'm getting there," Sheets said. "I'd like every day to be more positive but it's still up and down. It's definitely a work in progress."
EDMONDS ON 40-MAN ROSTER
Jim Edmonds is back in the major leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Gold Glove center fielder, making a comeback after taking the 2009 season off, had his minor league contract purchased yesterday, giving the 39-year-old a spot on the 40-man roster.
The move put $850,000 in Edmonds' pocket, with the ability to make up to $1.75 million in bonuses.
The four-time All-Star is likely headed for a reserve role behind projected starter Carlos Gomez, although Edmonds' ability to play all three outfield positions gives the Brewers options.
SPRING OVER FOR MOLINA
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa hopes catcher Yadier Molina will still be ready for opening day despite a right oblique injury.
La Russa said yesterday from the Cardinals training camp in Jupiter, Fla., that Molina will likely sit out the rest of spring training. The team expects to know more today.
Molina was hurt sliding into second base on a double during the second inning against Baltimore on Wednesday. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2009.
La Russa says the Cardinals will be "really patient and really optimistic" about the injury and that "we've got our fingers crossed for the early part of the season."
HUGHES NAMED NO. 5 STARTER
Phil Hughes was selected yesterday as the New York Yankees' fifth starter, beating out Joba Chamberlain and three others.
"It was what I set out in the spring to do," Hughes said after manager Joe Girardi announced the decision. "I grew up a starter in high school, minor leagues, even my first couple partial seasons in the big leagues. It was something that I really wanted and I feel like I'm ready for the challenge and ready for the season that lies ahead. "
Girardi said Chamberlain will be given an opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen and is in the mix for the eighth-inning setup role for closer Mariano Rivera.