Monday, March 12, 2007

New Rule Makes Vicente Padilla a Marked Man

Pitcher Vicente Padilla -- having signed a $34 million, three year contract to hold down the No. 2 spot in the Rangers rotation -- may be forced to scale back his game strategy due to a new rule: Begining this year, umpires no longer must issue a warning before ejecting a pitcher for throwing at a batter.

Taking a page from the book of late Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale -- master of brushback -- Padilla has bonked 66 batters since 2001, more than any other pitcher in the majors. Because Padilla is notorious for throwing inside, the new rule may impact his effectiveness, for as far as the umpires are concerned, Padilla is a marked man.

Last year Padilla hit 17 batters to lead the American League, having been suspended for five games after being blamed for igniting a brawl with the Los Angeles Angels. It was one of several incidents leading to the creation of the new rule, which reflects a change in philosophy about the perameters of game conduct as compared to Drysdale's era.

Drysdale had so little compunction about throwing at batters that whenever he needed to walk a man he would just hit him instead. "Why waste four pitches when one will do?" Drysdale said. "...Sooner or later, you have to say: 'It's my ball and half the plate is mine."