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Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla to have surgery on forearm

Timetable for Vicente Padilla's return is uncertain, but he is expected back before the All-Star break. The surgery Thursday will address a nerve problem in his pitching arm.

February 23, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla will have surgery Thursday to repair a nerve problem in his pitching arm.
Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla will have surgery Thursday to repair a… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Phoenix — Turns out that the $2-million insurance policy the Dodgers took out on their pitchers included the following fine print: coverage unavailable at the start of the season.

Right-hander Vicente Padilla, who was expected to pitch in long relief but also was considered insurance if the team needed an option at starter or closer, will undergo surgery Thursday in Los Angeles to release a nerve that is entrapped in the muscle of his right forearm.

The Dodgers don't have an exact timetable for Padilla's return, but General Manager Ned Colletti sounded confident the right-hander would be pitching before the All-Star break.

Because the procedure is minimally invasive, Padilla could begin throwing within a month.

Padilla's incentive-based contract reflected the risk in signing him. He was limited to 16 starts last year because of similar nerve problems as well as a bulging disk in his neck. Padilla will be paid a $2-million base salary and could make another $8 million as a starter or $6.8 million as a reliever.

Colletti said that the physical examination Padilla underwent when he re-signed with the Dodgers showed that the nerve had "calmed down."

"This came back when he started to increase his velocity the other day," Colletti said, referring to Padilla's bullpen session on Saturday.

Padilla was the Dodgers' opening-day starter last year, but was slated to pitch out of the bullpen this year because the team already had five starters: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland.

In particular, Kuroda and Garland were viewed as injury risks. But both said they are confident they will be able to take each of their scheduled turns in the rotation.

While Kuroda didn't land on the disabled list at any time last season, he was frequently hurt in his first two years in the majors. He also turned 36 this month.

"I might be older, but I'm becoming increasingly used to pitching every four days," said Kuroda, who used to pitch once a week as part of a six-man rotation in Japan. "And I haven't felt my age yet. There are many pitchers my age who are still pitching."

Kuroda reported to camp with a buzz haircut and several white hairs.

He said he used to dye the white when his hair was longer because he thought they stood out more.

Told that he looked as if he had aged significantly because of the change in his hair color, Kuroda laughed and said, "That's fine. It's age-appropriate."

Garland is only 31 but said some teams refrained from pursuing him this winter because of the condition of his shoulder.

Garland's selling point is that he has consistently pitched at least 200 innings a season in recent years. It's also what scares some teams.

The San Fernando Valley native has pitched 200 or more innings in six of the last seven seasons. The one year he didn't, in 2008 with the Angels, he pitched 1962/3 innings.

"You take any guy in the league and look at an MRI, you can find something," he said.

Like Padilla's deal, Garland's contract reflects uncertainty about his shoulder. It's guaranteed for one year and $5 million and includes another $3.525 million in potential incentives this season.

If he pitches 190 innings and avoids landing on the disabled list in September because of arm trouble, his $8-million club option for 2012 will automatically be exercised.

Considering his history, Garland said he's comfortable with the arrangement.

"I believe I can go out there and do 200 innings," he said. "If I throw 200 innings, it's a two-year deal."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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