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Dodgers eye Padilla to fill in for Kuroda

LA eyes Padilla to fill in for Kuroda

LOS ANGELES -- It was only a bullpen session, but with Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome, Vicente Padilla's impressive Thursday workout eased at least one concern for pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

"If you had any thought of him not being healthy, there was no sign of that," Honeycutt said Friday. "You could see he had good life, his arm strength was there. We wanted to make sure he had been throwing. He showed he had. He looks like he's ready to go."

Padilla, signed Wednesday after a messy departure from the Texas Rangers, is scheduled to start for Triple-A Albuquerque Saturday, and, barring something unforeseen, will be promoted to start for the Dodgers on Thursday in Colorado.

"He came out firing," said bullpen catcher Mike Borzello. "In a bullpen session, you don't know what they'll bring. He showed his sinker, cutter, everything he has. I was surprised with his velocity. He was throwing like he would in a game."

Padilla's acquisition looms larger with each passing day in Kuroda's recovery from a concussion caused by the line drive he took off the head Saturday in Arizona.

Nobody is giving a target date for Kuroda's return, least of all trainer Stan Conte, who said the pitcher continues "progressing."

On the other hand, even though Kuroda was able to play catch for the second consecutive day Friday, he still isn't allowed to run. Kuroda still has headaches, occasional dizziness and he's not allowed to remain at the ballpark for games because of the sensory overload on his bruised brain. On Sunday, he'll undergo a third online ImPACT neurocognitive test designed specifically for athletes with post-concussion syndrome.

Until Kuroda is symptom-free, he can't engage in any at-risk activity -- no pitching to hitters, no Minor League rehab start, no Major League start.

The longer Kuroda is not pitching competitively off a mound, the longer it will take his arm to return to a pitch count worthy of starting a game in a pennant race. With only six weeks left in the regular season, it's hard to envision him returning in less than a month. His return at any time this season is similarly uncertain.

So, with the question being as much if Kuroda will return this season as when, the club moves on without him, which is why Padilla could be a difference maker, good or bad.

Honeycutt said Padilla is expected to pitch five innings Saturday for Albuquerque. It will be Padilla's first game action since Aug. 5 for the Rangers, who designated him for assignment and released him Wednesday.

"We don't want to overdo it, but we'd like him to get up and down five times," said Honeycutt. "We don't want too many pitches, maybe 75."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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