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Red Sox agree to minor league deal with Vicente Padilla

01.16.12 at 1:57 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox have agreed on a minor league deal with right-hander Vicente Padilla that includes an invitation to big league spring training. If Padilla makes the big league team, the source said, he will receive a prorated $1.5 million big league base salary. The deal was first reported (via twitter) by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN.

The 34-year-old appears to fit the mold of a potential buy-low option of a pitcher coming off of an injury with a chance to compete for a back-of-the-rotation job. Padilla had been talking with several teams, including the Red Sox, this winter, as he pitched in Nicaragua while working his way back from season-ending surgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck. In that winter league, he was 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA, 13 strikeouts and one walk in 16 innings.

‘€œHe’€™s healthy and he’€™s throwing hard,’€ said one industry source.

Given that he was pitching in games in winter ball (rather than merely throwing side sessions), the Sox had an opportunity to get a fairly thorough evaluation of the pitcher. This winter, according to one talent evaluator, Padilla had been throwing well. His fastball was mostly 90-94 mph, sitting at 92-93 mph with his full array of secondary pitches. In other words, when the Sox scouted him in Nicaragua, he looked very much like the pitcher he was when he was successful in the major leagues.

Padilla has always had terrific stuff, featuring a low- to mid-90s fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. He has worked as both a starter and reliever in the majors, though he has limited bullpen experience in the last decade. After beginning his career in the Diamondbacks and Phillies bullpens (he was traded from Arizona to Philadelphia as part of the Curt Schilling deal), Padilla made all but one of his 238 appearances from 2002-10 as a starter. In that time, he was 97-81 with a 4.32 ERA, 6.3 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings for the Phillies, Rangers and Dodgers.

However, after returning to the Dodgers on a one-year, $2 million deal last winter, he was moved to the bullpen, where he made all nine of his appearances in 2011 (striking out nine and walking five in 8 2/3 innings) before his neck injury ended his season in mid-May. While the veteran likely would prefer to start, he is not restricting his conversations to teams with a rotation opening, and did not rule out going to teams that were more interested in him as a reliever than a starter.

That said, with the Sox, he will be able to compete for a rotation job. He joins an increasingly long list of pitchers competing for the last two spots in the Sox rotation, joining Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Felix Doubront and Andrew Miller.

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