It's not official yet, but apparently the Dodgers' Opening Day starter will be ... Vicente Padilla?
Yes, and this might rank as one of the biggest surprises of late March. True Blue LA's reaction:
Padilla was so hated in Texas that when he was released, other Rangers personally congratulated and thanked general manager Jon Daniels. Yet, given a second chance in Los Angeles, he pitched well in his six weeks as a Dodger, working his way all the way up to playoff savior. Padilla pitched two wonderful games, closing out the Cardinals and allowing one run against the Phillies, before faltering in his final playoff start. He was the only Dodger to start three playoff games.
For the last few weeks, the hot rumor going around camp was that Clayton Kershaw would get the opening day nod. The rumor got so hot that the Dodger PR staff, at the request of some of the beat reporters, sent out a list of youngest opening day starters in MLB history (Kershaw would have been the 33rd youngest in MLB, and the third youngest Dodger). Instead, Kershaw will start the home opener instead.
Yes, it's odd that Joe Torre would choose his fourth-best starter to start the Dodgers' first game. But what's the impact, really? The game's in Pittsburgh, so there's no real letdown for the home fans. Over the course of the season, the "No. 1 starter" won't pitch more innings than the No. 2 or 3 or 4 starter (not so you'd notice, anyway).
I don't know what the reasoning was behind this decision. Maybe Torre likes to start the season with a veteran, or maybe he likes a particular gleam in Padilla's left eye, or maybe he's taking advice from Nancy Reagan's astrologer. Practically speaking, who's designated as the No. 1 starter is far less important than who gets the No. 5 job.
And for that decision, we're still waiting.