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Pickups stick

October 07, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

Vicente Padilla said he never envisioned this season turning out the way it has.

He was let go by the Texas Rangers in August and trashed by some of his former teammates on his way out. He was picked up by the Dodgers, who signed him for a prorated share of the major league minimum -- about $100,000. On his first day at Dodger Stadium, he was peppered with questions about his reputation as a head-hunter.

On Tuesday, Padilla was named the Dodgers' starting pitcher for Game 3 of the National League division series.

The news came as a surprise, even to Padilla.

Looking over at Chad Billingsley's unoccupied locker, Padilla said, "I thought they were going to give him the opportunity. He's been here the entire year."

Padilla isn't the only one among General Manager Ned Colletti's low-budget midseason acquisitions who figures to play a prominent role for the Dodgers in the playoffs.

George Sherrill, acquired from Baltimore, will set up closer Jonathan Broxton. Ronnie Belliard will start at second base tonight in Game 1 of the NLDS. Jon Garland will be part of the team as a reliever. Jim Thome probably will make the club as a pinch-hitter.

"I think we're a little bit deeper than we were a year ago," Colletti said.

But not any poorer.

Of Belliard's $1.9-million salary, the Dodgers are paying only about $300,000. Garland's entire $7.25-million salary is being paid by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers are paying Thome only $1 million of his $13-million salary. The Chicago White Sox are paying the rest.

"I think Ned has a sense of what needs to be done," Manager Joe Torre said. "It doesn't need to be a blockbuster thing."

That Colletti could pull this off wasn't that much of a surprise.

He did something similar last season, adding Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake to the Dodgers' roster without adding to their payroll.

The real surprise was how Padilla and Belliard emerged as key players.

Padilla was put on waivers by Texas in June, but the Dodgers made no move at the time, as they were aware that he was known in baseball circles as a bad teammate. Only when Hiroki Kuroda was struck in the head by a line drive did they decide he was worth the risk.

Padilla was 4-0 with a 3.20 earned-run average in eight regular-season games, including seven starts, with the Dodgers.

Belliard might have been an even greater surprise.

"When we got him from Washington, we didn't know how much we were going to use him," Torre said. "We didn't know where we were going to use him."

Torre found a place for him at second base to spell a fatigued Orlando Hudson.

Belliard turned out to be more than short-term relief, as he hit .351 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in in 24 games with the Dodgers.

Belliard said that, like Padilla, he was surprised by how much Torre played him.

"I knew there were some guys who needed a day off," he said. "I thought I would play a little second, a little third, do a little pinch-hitting."

-- Dylan Hernandez

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