Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Vicente Padilla pitches during the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit won 13-12 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
It's too early in the season to draw any real conclusions -- and good thing, too, as the Red Sox are win-less after three games -- but the Vicente Padilla experiment has worked to this point. He threw four innings in Sunday's game against the Tigers, striking out four batters while inducing seven grounders.
It's just one long appearance (and another short one from Thursday), but the reason that it might mean a whole lot is due to Alfredo Aceves' role as team's closer. With Aceves more likely to pitch in the eighth and ninth innings than whenever the Red Sox might need him, the need for another long reliever who can be relied on in important spots -- one who isn't Scott Atchison -- exists. Padilla, as someone who has spent most of his career as a starter, has a a deep arsenal, and can throw hard accurately, fits the bill for being something of a new Aceves.
Padilla isn't going to throw two, three, or four innings every time out. But he has the background and stuff to fill whatever void Aceves might have left behind by moving to the closer role. Never mind the way the season (and the three dependable starters) has started: with Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront both unlikely candidates for 30-plus starts and 200 innings in their first years as starters in the majors, Sunday's appearance wont be his last long outing.
It's unsurprising the Red Sox would want to use Padilla like this. Like Aaron Cook, he wasn't signed just for his lottery ticket capabilities. He wasn't a Carlos Silva, who has already been cut, or Ross Ohlendorf, likely to spend most of the year in the minors -- look no further than his starting out the year with the team to avoid an opt-out scenario for evidence of that. Combine that with the fact Bard and Doubront mean more to the future of the organization as well as Aceves being in a new role, and Padilla in this gig makes sense.
It's no guarantee he keeps it up, but the Red Sox certainly could use the help, at least until the Alex Wilson and Rich Hills of the world start to come to Boston.