Padilla returns from injury to join Dust Devils starting rotation

Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerJune 9, 2012 

Roberto Padilla’s first season in professional baseball was over before it really ever started.

Last July 17, the eighth-round pick out of San Jose State in the 2011 major league draft made his pro debut with the Tri-City Dust Devils, tossing two innings. In his next outing five days later, the 6-foot-3 left-hander from Union City, Calif., picked up his first victory.

An inflamed shoulder prevented him from making any further appearances. Meanwhile, the Dust Devils went on to win the Northwest League East Division and later come within one game of winning the NWL championship.

Padilla said this year’s club has as good a chance as any to repeat the success of 2011. Only this year, he aims to be a much bigger part of it.

“Nobody wants to sit out. It was tough, because you want to be in there,” said Padilla, who will begin the year as one of four Tri-City starters as announced by manager Fred Ocasio after a team workout Saturday.

Padilla will join Peter Tago, a 6-3 right-hander; Benjamin Hughes, a 6-5 right-hander; and Josh Slaats, a 6-5 righty who started five games for Tri-City in 2010, in the Dust Devils’ initial starting rotation. Ocasio has not announced the Opening Day starter but believes Padilla can become a highly productive pitcher.

“He’s healthy now, and he threw the ball very well in extended (spring training). He knows how to pitch, and he’s not afraid to pitch to contact,” Ocasio said.

Tri-City will open the season at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Gesa Stadium with the first of a five-game series against the Everett AquaSox, a Seattle Mariners’ affiliate.

A sellout is expected, but seats are still available by calling the Dust Devils’ front office at 544-8789. A fireworks show will follow the game.

One of Padilla’s main struggles last year was with his mechanics. After he signed with the Colorado Rockies after the draft and joined the Dust Devils, Rockies roving pitching instructor Bo McLaughlin noticed that Padilla was throwing across his body. McLaughlin, now the pitching coach for the Triple-A Colorado Sky Sox, and Tri-City pitching coach Dave Burba immediately began working with Padilla on straightening out his delivery.

That was one of the main sticking points in Padilla’s off-season training, along with building up the strength in his arm. He’s been adhering to his daily workouts, using weights and cords to simulate a throwing motion.

“That’s the whole key to making it through a whole season,” he said. “You can tell the difference when you take days off. You’re just cheating yourself.”

Ocasio said that Padilla has shown good endurance over the last few weeks at the team’s spring training site in Scottsdale, Ariz., building up to 75 pitches in extended spring games.

Draft picks to join Dust Devils: As the Rockies begin to sign the first of their selections from last week’s MLB draft, the Dust Devils will begin to see their roster grow. Tri-City will see new faces starting today, as the Rockies have assigned five players — three pitchers and two middle infielders — to the Dust Devils to make their professional debut.

Tri-City draftees arriving today will include: RHP Justin Arrowood, a 28th-round draft pick out of Appalachian State; RHP Andrew Brown, a 23rd-round draft pick out of the University of Akron (Ohio); RHP Shane Broyles, a 14th-round pick out of Texas Tech; 2B Patrick Hutchison, a 29th-round pick out of Fresno State; and SS Alec Mehrten, a 25th-rounder out of Fresno Pacific (Calif.).

Blackmon, Wong could play in opening series: OF Charlie Blackmon (turf toe) and SS Joey Wong (groin) will begin the season on the disabled list but could see action in the Dust Devils’ opening series against Everett.

RHP Tyler Gagnon (shoulder) will also open the season on the DL and could be out until mid-July.

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