The Dodgers can do better than Vicente Padilla for their fourth starter. He's more of a fifth starter, or even a fifth-point-five starter, the kind of guy you bring in at the end of a season when you've lost too many other pitchers to injury and regression and curious head games. He was that kind of guy last year. Padilla is Eric Stults with a resume and a briefcase full of service time. But really Padilla is the horse with no name. He'll give you some innings, make you glad to be out of the rain, get you through the metaphorical desert, but that's it.
But you know what? Orel Hershiser is not walking through that door. Sandy Koufax is not walking through that door. ( Unless Kershaw counts for that, but we're talking about the fourth starter here, remember. ) There are no shiny free agents walking through that door. Let's give thanks for that, probably. How often, really, is giving a pitcher a multi-year deal a good idea? With Padilla it's just one year, five million dollars. That's less than they're paying Juan Pierre to go away. And Padilla is a horse, by which I mean, a functional pitcher. It's better to have a horse with no name than no horse at all. I don't know who the Dodgers fourth starter would be if it wasn't Padilla. But I know who the fifth starter would be. Russell Reid Ortiz.
Are you scared yet? Or just skeptical? Maybe it really wouldn't be, but not having Padilla would make us one step closer to having Ortiz in the rotation. Remember Jose Lima? He was another washed up pitcher who was a spring training invitee. Yeah, Lima worked out, but that doesn't make him fundamentally a good pitcher or at the time a good bet, it makes him a gateway drug. Lima was the gateway drug that convinced the Dodgers that drugs were cool ( in other words, that inviting terrible terrible washed up pitchers to spring training is cool ). And Ortiz is the terrible, awful drug at the harrowing end of the drug journey, the cautionary tragedy at the heart of an ABC afterschool special, or the centerpiece of a very special episode of Diff'rent Strokes. Anything that helps keep Ortiz away from the mound of Dodger Stadium is fine by me.