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Padilla named Opening Day starter

Padilla named Opening Day starter

PHOENIX -- Vicente Padilla, released just seven months ago by the Rangers, was named the Dodgers' Opening Day starter on Thursday by manager Joe Torre.

Padilla will start on April 5 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and be followed in the rotation by Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and an as-yet-unnamed fifth starter who the Dodgers will need on the first Saturday of the season in Florida.

Torre said that Padilla's selection demonstrates that the Dodgers, while lacking a true ace, have four quality starting pitchers.

"We just had to pick somebody, and he was the one," Torre said. "Am I saying he's better than the other guys? I'm not saying that. We decided to line them up that way -- the fact that we don't have a No. 1, we have four guys who have pitched important games for us."

Factoring in off-days, Kershaw is lined up to start the home opener at Dodger Stadium on April 13 against Arizona.

"Clayton is fine with me," Torre said of his home-opening starter. "Billingsley, we want to get his legs under him. We don't want him to think the first start is more important than the others. We all know what he's capable of and done in the past. He's healthy and going in the right direction. Kuroda is a stabilizer. Last night [one hit in 5 1/3 scoreless innings on Wednesday], that was him. We've come to expect that every time he takes the mound."

The selection of Padilla surprised, among others, Padilla, and it served as evidence of his resurrected career. Padilla, 32, was picked up by the Dodgers for the final two months of last season after wearing out his welcome with the Rangers.

"I'm very excited -- I wasn't expecting to pitch the first game," said Padilla. "When I left Texas and pitched well the last two months with the Dodgers, I was expecting to be the third or fourth starting pitcher. This is something really big for me. Any starting pitcher dreams to be the starting pitcher for Opening Day, so, for me as well, it's a great honor and a great opportunity."

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Padilla said he's pleased with his spring, although he did experience "a little forearm" tightness that did not require him to miss any days on the mound. He said the same thing happened to him last spring.

It was last year that Padilla -- having already earned a reputation as a headhunter after being involved in several beanings -- was designated for assignment by Texas amid complaints that he had also become a bad teammate who was aloof in the clubhouse and unhelpful to younger players.

The Dodgers, however, were compelled to add his live arm after Kuroda went to the sidelines to recover from a line drive to the head. Padilla went on to become a key contributor and L.A.'s best starting pitcher in the postseason.

Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven regular-season starts for the Dodgers. He threw seven scoreless innings to beat the Cardinals in the National League Division Series clincher and allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings to beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series.

"That certainly was part of it," Torre said of Padilla's postseason run, although it also included allowing six runs in three innings when the Dodgers were eliminated by the Phillies in Game 5.

Padilla was a combined 12-6 with a 4.40 ERA last year and, more pertinent to the Opening Day start on the road, is 18-5 on the road over the past two seasons, the best record in baseball for a pitcher with at least 30 starts.

This is his 12th professional season, four of which he's won at least 14 games. A free agent after last season, he re-signed with the Dodgers for $5.025 million.

Torre said he has "a pretty good idea of what I want to do" in choosing a fifth starter, "but it would be unfair without all the information."

So he will not announce that until next week. Charlie Haeger seems to be stretched out the most for that role, although Torre has mentioned Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz and Josh Towers as well. Not mentioned much lately is Eric Stults.

Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Monasterios seems to have an excellent chance of making the club, although he seems to be looked at more as a reliever.

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }