The opening-day starter a year ago, Vicente Padilla took part in the Dodgers’ first workout of the spring on Thursday as a man without a set role.
If someone is injured, he could start. If Jonathan Broxton fails to regain his form, he could close. Or, if neither of those scenarios unfolds, he could be a long reliever.
Padilla’s contract reflects the uncertainty. He will earn a base salary of $2 million and can meet incentives to earn an additional $8 million as a starter or $6.8 million as a reliever.
“If I start, I start,” Padilla said. “If I relieve, I relieve. It’s all the same, no? You’re just throwing a ball.”
Padilla said his preference is to start, but there is no place for him in the rotation.
The team has six established starters counting Padilla. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are 1-2 in the rotation, and Manager Don Mattingly said Padilla is better suited for relief duty than Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly or Jon Garland.
Mattingly said Padilla will be on a starter’s workout program early in camp, then will gradually transition into being a reliever.
Padilla began his major league career out of the bullpen, but the last time he pitched primarily in relief was 10 seasons ago.
What Padilla said concerns him more at this point is his health. He spent a month after the season last year receiving treatment for a bulging disk in his neck. He arrived for spring training more than a week before the reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and threw two bullpen sessions last week.
“Right now, everything’s fine,” said Padilla, who was out for almost two months early last season because of a nerve problem in his arm. “I don’t feel any pain.”
As a free agent this winter, Padilla said he was approached by other clubs but never pursued those opportunities. He wanted to return to the organization that took a chance on him late in the 2009 season, when it recovered the reputed bad boy from the scrap heap and resurrected his career.
“I knew what the situation was,” he said. “They told me I could start or I could relieve, but that was fine with me. I’m comfortable here.”
A Venezuelan newspaper reported that Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario said in an interview that he lost his passport and that he should be able to report to camp soon after getting a new one.
“I lost my passport and I have an appointment set for Friday,” Lider en Deportes quoted Belisario as saying. “I passed the embassy’s medical examinations and all I have to do is get the passport.”
That was news to Belisario’s agent, Paul Kinzer, who said Wednesday that his client would probably miss the entire season because of his inability to gain legal entry into the United States.
Kinzer said he has lost touch with Belisario, who didn’t report to camp on time for the third consecutive spring.
“He’s gone kind of quiet,” Kinzer said. “I haven’t heard from him in a few weeks.”
Kinzer again declined to say why Belisario hasn’t reported to spring training.
One of the first position players to report to camp, Matt Kemp worked on baserunning with new first base coach Davey Lopes.... Non-roster pitcher Dana Eveland suffered a hamstring injury on only the third sprint of a running drill.