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Vicente Padilla could be a throwback to some bad old days

T.J. SIMERS

August 20, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Manna from heaven -- thank you, thank you, Vicente Padilla.

Oh, how I've missed the days when the Dodgers' clubhouse was stocked with grumps, malcontents and losers, even missing the miserable likes of Kevin Brown, Jeff Kent and so many other undesirables.

Things have gone so badly around here I've found myself shaking hands with players, learning rap and making the case, on occasion, that a Dodgers GM is doing a good job.

It's enough to put someone out of the writing business, but then Padilla just drops out of the sky, a problem child by baseball standards and a Dodgers disaster in the making -- beginning with the very first interview.

"You can never have enough pitching," the saying goes, and yet the Texas Rangers essentially announced to the world, "we've had enough with this joker."

Makes you wonder if the guy's arm has fallen off, but then he arrives with a wing on each side of his frame, leading one to conclude here's someone with humongous problems.

The Rangers, maybe more than any other team in baseball, have been known for their inability to put together a quality pitching staff, and still very much alive for postseason consideration, the Rangers told Padilla to get lost.

"About time," Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd reportedly said. "It's absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive, and I believe this is a huge positive for this team."

And this, in published reports, from Rangers pitcher Eddie Guardado: "I think this thing was a long time in coming . . . they were just fed up with him not being a team guy."

As introductions go, it was just like meeting Gary Sheffield again -- telling Padilla, "Word is you are a head case."

Better to say it to his face than behind his back, while also giving him a chance to set the record straight from his point of view.

But he just glared, visions of Milton Bradley dancing in my head, while Dodgers interpreter Kenji Nimura repeated the question to Padilla in Spanish -- also adding, "This is the man I told you about."

The problem child, finally speaking in response through Nimura, said, "If I caused so much trouble, I wouldn't be here."

"If that wasn't the case," I explained, "you wouldn't be here."

Another glare and Padilla said, "If you say so. What can I say?"

I thought he might explain why a baseball team wanting to win as badly as any other baseball team would just dump him, but every time I asked, he danced. Obviously, accountability is not one of his strengths.

"You asked me five times already," Padilla said through the interpreter, while making it clear he didn't like "the aggressive questions."

I told him I'd make it 10 times in an effort to get an answer, and he probably thought I was kidding. He has no idea how many times I used to have to repeat things so Kenny Lofton could understand what I was saying.

Padilla was described as a "bad teammate" in dispatches from Texas, no relation, though, to Kent. He also has a proclivity to hit opposing hitters he doesn't like -- exposing his teammates to retaliation.

The Dodgers brass has told him it will not stand for such behavior, but if he was the kind of guy to listen to management, he'd probably still be pitching in Texas.

Right now he stands No. 8 on the list of active pitchers, hitting 99 batters. He goes head hunting here, and Manny Ramirez better come to the plate wearing football gear.

Padilla will pitch in the minors this weekend where it really doesn't matter whom he plunks, and then make his first start for the Dodgers next week in Colorado. No idea when he will begin making trouble.

Manager Joe Torre said Padilla starts with a "clean slate." Torre has previous experience as Brown's manager, so how big a problem can Padilla be? He probably figures it can't be any bigger a problem than pitching Jeff Weaver more often.

Dodgers pitcher Randy Wolf also has experience with Padilla and said, "I liked him a lot." Wolf has gone unnoticed most of the season, so I'm guessing he'd welcome anyone in the Dodgers' clubhouse if he thought they'd talk to him.

"He's worse than me?" said Ramirez when advised the Dodgers had signed a "bad teammate."

"I don't know him. I was in Boston and he was in Texas," he said. "How many miles is that?"

A moment later Ramirez said, "he's a great guy," until reminded he had never met him.

He also said he had been hit by Padilla in the past and was fine with it, a reporter looking it up and finding that was never the case.

"Give the guy a break," Ramirez concluded. "We need pitching."

"That's the first accurate thing you've said," I noted, the Dodgers needing pitching and the organization apparently satisfied if someone has a pulse and not wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.

"We do need pitching," said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, and holy Cliff Lee, he just realized that!

I guess he was counting earlier on Eric Stults more than most of us.

A year ago Colletti was a dead man until swinging deals for Ramirez and Casey Blake. His inability to land Lee -- especially if the Dodgers collapse or ultimately fall to the Phillies -- places him right back on the endangered GMs list.

Some folks here wondered if the guy was healthy, still trying to figure out why Texas would just let him go. Colletti said the Dodgers' medical staff, the same folks that pronounced Jason Schmidt fit to pitch three years ago, have given Padilla thumbs up.

The way things are going around here, it's surprising they haven't cleared Don Newcombe to pitch.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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