By all accounts this is a puzzling choice, but it’s really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s look at the numbers: Padilla was 4-0 down the stretch last year and the club’s most consistent starter when they needed one. He’s also been solid in Spring Training. Does this qualify him to be the Opening Day starter when he’s also the team’s #4 starter when lining them up one through five? That’s a tough one to argue if you take this stuff seriously (which I do not), but I think it’s safe to say that Padilla will pitch well when he gets the ball on April 5 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Jon Weisman argues that Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda would be more logical choices due to the magnitude of what they’ve contributed to the club and even for sentimental reasons.
That said, I think it’s clear that how Joe Torre selects his Opening Day starter is different than how most of us would. Per Ken Gurnick:
“We just had to pick somebody and he was the one,” Torre said. “Am I saying he’s better than the other guys? I’m not saying that. We decided to line them up that way. The fact [is] that we don’t have a No. 1, we have four guys who have pitched important games for us.”
Here are a few more quotes from Torre per Josh Rawitch:
Joe Torre’s reasoning: “We just decided to line them up that way.”
That means the second game will be Kershaw in Pittsburgh, then Billingsley and then Kuroda.
More from Joe: “We have 4 guys you could put their names in a hat. I had no problem with Clayton starting the Home Opener.”
Torre doesn’t seem to think the whole Opening Day starter thing is that big a deal, but I’m going to assume the real reason has something to do with the way the pitchers line up before the home opener at Dodger Stadium.
Personally, I think the whole “who starts Opening Day” thing is something that the fans (and maybe the players) care about more than management does. I’m fine with Padilla having the honor – he’s been a solid pitcher for the Dodgers and he does have a great comeback story after being released by the Texas Rangers in the middle of last season.
Now let’s get to Opening Day, already!
Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010