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Daily Dodger in review: Vicente Padilla’s mixed package of good and bad

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VICENTE PADILLA, 33, starting pitcher.

Final 2010 stats: 6-5, 4.07 ERA, 84 strikeouts, 24 walks, seven hit batters, 1.08 WHIP in 95 innings.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: Oh, when he was good, he was very good. Between injuries, Padilla went on a seven-game stretch in June and July, where he went 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA. He looked like, of all things, an opening-day starter. That sloooow curve that Vin Scully dubbed the ‘soap bubble’ was a constant jaw-dropper.

The bad: Alas, when he was bad, he was border disaster. He bookended his terrific stretch with a horrid start and finish, both of which could be attributed to injury. He had an elbow nerve issue at the beginning of the season and neck issue at its end. During those periods, he went 2-4 with a 7.04 ERA.

What’s next: The Dodgers have to determine whether to try to bring the big Nicaraguan back, something of a gamble given his physical issues. They signed him to a one-year deal for $5.025 million last season. If they go this route again, it should be for another one-year contract.

The take: The Dodgers have no interest in starting the first half of the season in a constant search for a fifth starter. They need to go into spring knowing who’s in their rotation and worry about who the No.6 starter will be when injury inevitably strikes.

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Going out on a real limb here, I’m going to assume they won’t make a realistic run at Cliff Lee. They should sniff around to see what the Royals would be interested in for Zack Greinke. The Rockies’ budding free agent Jorge de la Rosa, 30, is reportedly looking for a five-year deal, which should eliminate him.

The pickings are slim, which could bring them back to Padilla. Hiroki Kuroda is the Dodgers’ other free-agent starter, and signals are all over the place on what he wants to do next. It is very possible both Padilla and Kuroda could return.

Padilla has burned a few bridges with his previous reputation for head-hunting, but with the free-agent starting pitching pool so thin this winter, it’s not a lock he won’t draw some outside interest.

Ideally, the Dodgers would prefer to add an arm to the rotation that wasn’t going to be 33 years or older next season -- Ted Lilly (35), Kuroda (36) and Padilla (33) make for risky rotation health-wise.

Realistically -- risks and all -- Padilla may not be their No.1 offseason priority, but the offseason could bring them back to him. And there are worse places to end up.

-- Steve Dilbeck


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