Padilla returns to the rotation to be the innings-eater the club has been looking for one day after another Dodgers free-agent target, Joel Pineiro, reached an agreement with the Angels. The Dodgers also had interest in Braden Looper and Jon Garland among the remaining free-agent starters.
Padilla was released last summer by the Texas Rangers amid accusations that he, among other things, was a bad teammate. The Dodgers, in need of a starter after Hiroki Kuroda was drilled in the head by a line drive, picked up Padilla on Aug. 19 for the pro-rated minimum wage, and he was exactly what they needed, delivering on the mound and drawing praise for his attitude from teammates.
Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts for the Dodgers during the regular season. He won his postseason debut by holding the Cardinals scoreless over seven innings in the National League Division Series and dueled Pedro Martinez for 7 1/3 masterful innings in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series, then was hammered by the Phillies in the clinching Game 5, allowing six runs in three innings.
During the regular season in 2009, Padilla was a combined 12-6 with a 4.46 ERA and was especially effective on the road, going 7-2 with a 3.70 ERA in 12 road starts. He has won at least 12 games in five seasons and his 98 career wins are second to Dennis Martinez on the all-time list for pitchers from Nicaragua. Padilla is 14-8 lifetime against the Dodgers' NL West opponents.
Padilla helps mitigate the free-agency loss of Randy Wolf, who signed a three-year contract with Milwaukee. Wolf, who signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers last February that eventually was worth $8 million, led the club with 214 1/3 innings pitched. Padilla has three seasons in which he has exceeded 200 innings pitched.
Padilla rejoins Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Kuroda in the Dodgers' starting rotation. The fifth spot will be determined through a Spring Training competition. Candidates include James McDonald, Scott Elbert, Charlie Haeger, Eric Stults, Josh Lindblom and Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Monasterios.
The Dodgers are satisfied that Padilla is healthy after a bizarre incident in November in which he accidentally shot himself in the thigh in Nicaragua. Padilla earned $12 million last year, the final season of a multiyear contract. Before Texas, he had pitched for Arizona and Philadelphia.
Padilla is the Dodgers' second veteran free agent signed this winter after the acquisition last month of utility man Jamey Carroll, who will compete with Blake DeWitt for the starting second-base job.