Meet The Pitchers: Vicente Padilla

In the third installment of <i>Meet the Pitchers</i> we'll take a look at one of the more questionable starters in the Phillies rotation. Vicente Padilla has had some brilliant starts since making his Philadelphia debut as a starting pitcher last season, but he's also had some rocky ones along the way. The question for the Phillies is whether Padilla is the all-star that we saw in 2002 or the up-and-down pitcher that we've seen in 2003.

He was simply a throw in. When the Phils traded Curt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of 2000, they acquired Omaar Daal and Travis Lee in addition to a young, hard-throwing relief pitcher. Vicente Padilla, 25 of Chinandega, Nicaragua was that pitcher. Both Lee and Daal led short and tumultuous careers while in Philadelphia and have yet to make a ripple in the ocean that is Major League Baseball. Padilla, however, has opened eyes since arriving in the city of brotherly love. Whether it be by making an appearance in last season's all-star game, and going on to win 14 contests on the season, or for starting the 2003 campaign with a dismal 3-5 record with an ERA above four, Padilla has been surprising so far in his career.

It always hurts to lose a guy like Curt Schilling, but if you can acquire a young arm with plenty of speed and some manageable off-speed stuff, it helps to soften the blow. Last year, Padilla was off to one of the better starts that Phillies fans have seen in awhile from one of their starting pitchers, and was one of the few bright spots on a team that finished 9-19 in the month of April. Padilla had a very strong campaign that was highlighted by a late inning appearance in the all-star game. Padilla finished the season with 128 strikeouts and despite a slump to finish the year he was a dark horse in the Cy Young Award competition. His late season slide left the young righty as a question mark for 2003.

One of the concerns about Padilla was that he seemed to tire late in the season. Padilla took the advice of his manager not to play winter ball in his native Nicaragua, for fear of his arm tiring as it had in 2002. Judging by his performance so far, it is unclear if that was a wise choice. Perhaps that decision could turn out to be a learning experience for both sides. It's been a rocky start to 2003 for Padilla. Despite the run support he has been given by his teammates he has faltered repeatedly. His ERA is 4.23, a far cry from his career average of 3.69. The number of hits he's allowed nearly eclipses his innings pitched (52 and 55.1 respectively). Yet, he's already recorded one complete game shutout on the year.

Both Padilla and the Phillies have been inconsistent and need to find a way to position themselves to win every time they take the field. Padilla in particular, must rediscover the "stuff" that led him to a stellar season last year, and find a way to put hitters away quickly to limit the number of pitches he throws per game. When this team heats up it will a force to be reckoned with, and the same goes for Vicente Padilla.

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