Padilla pitched in nicely
Veteran delivers 4 shutout innings
DETROIT - He had probably been extended to his limit. Fifty-one pitches over four innings of scoreless relief represented more than yeoman’s work for Vicente Padilla.
The long relief - or, better yet, the looooong relief - Padilla provided Boston’s beleaguered bullpen proved downright heroic, if not overlooked, after Sunday’s gut-wrenching 13-12 loss in 11 innings to the Tigers, who swept the Sox in the season-opening series at Comerica Park.
“I’m glad somebody noticed it,’’ said catcher Kelly Shoppach, “because he went out there and really extended himself for us.’’
The 34-year-old journeyman reliever from Nicaragua, who pitched just nine games last season for the Dodgers before landing on the disabled list with a right forearm injury and a neck issue, effectively pitched the fifth through eighth innings in relief of starter Clay Buchholz.
He successfully navigated Detroit’s dangerous lineup by mixing his gimmick eephus pitch - a slow curve that travels 50-55 miles per hour, which he used to cross up the potent bats of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder - with a sinker, slider, and four-seam fastball, allowing just a pair of singles.
“I just tried to execute my pitches and get them out the best I could,’’ said Padilla, who retired 12 of 14 batters he faced.
Padilla rang up four strikeouts, retiring the side in the sixth after giving up a leadoff single to Andy Dirks.
“He mixed speeds and had good command on both sides of the plate,’’ said Sox pitching coach Bob McClure. “He did a good job.’’
Throwing more than two innings of relief for the first time since Sept. 5, 2001, when he logged five innings for the Phillies and gave up three runs in a 7-4 loss to Bobby Valentine’s Mets, Padilla enabled the Sox to erase a 4-0 first-inning deficit and head to the ninth inning with a 9-7 lead.
“He was really great and I was really happy for him to get out there and he really picked us up, big-time,’’ said Shoppach, who got his first start of the season. “He really helped settle the game down.’’
After Padilla finished his day with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, the Sox handed Alfredo Aceves a 10-7 lead to work with in the ninth. But the closer failed to lock it down, giving up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera. Franklin Morales relieved Aceves and got out of the inning.
The Sox took a 12-10 lead in the top 11th, but this time it was Mark Melancon’s turn to blow a save. Delmon Young hit a one-out sacrifice fly and Alex Avila won it with a two-run homer.
“I felt good out there,’’ said Padilla, who landed a spot on the 25-man roster after he recorded a 3.29 earned run average with 11 strikeouts and one walk in 13 2/3 spring training innings as a nonroster invitee. “I only wish it could have gone better for the team.’’
Asked if he had anything left in him had they asked him to take the ball in the ninth, Padilla replied, “If it’s what the manager wanted, I would have tried,’’ he said, as he dressed in a quiet corner of the visitors’ clubhouse, not far from Daniel Bard, the team’s former setup man who this season was converted to a starter.
“But we have plenty of good pitchers who can do the job,’’ he said.
With the back end of Boston’s bullpen in disarray, perhaps giving Padilla the ball in the ninth might have been a better alternative.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,’’ Shoppach said. “We asked him to do a lot there to come up and down four times and he hasn’t thrown that many innings in a month. So I was very proud of what he was able to do for us today.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.