MINNEAPOLIS -- Vicente Padilla showed his softer side on Wednesday night. The Rangers were left mystified as to why he did that. "I don't know what to tell you," pitching coach Mark Connor said in the clubhouse afterward.
"You have to ask him," manager Ron Washington said. "It's hard for me to explain." If those two don't know, then who but Padilla can explain why he was throwing so many off-speed pitches against the Minnesota Twins, including a breaking ball that was clocked as slow as 53 mph? Right now it's hard to figure out what's going on with Padilla, and nobody is quite sure if a 4-2 loss to the Twins will be his last start of the season. All they know is that his best pitch was his fastball, and he seemed reluctant to use it on Wednesday against the Twins. "He's more effective when he uses his fastball," Washington said. "I don't know why he went to the off-speed stuff as much as he did." The most plausible explanation is that Padilla blamed the fastball for the control problems that plagued him in the first three innings. He walked five in that stretch, including the leadoff batter in all three innings. Two of them ending up scoring. "There was nothing wrong with his arm," Connor said. "He was throwing 94-95 mph. He told me he was having trouble adjusting to the mound and had trouble getting his fastball over with it." Padilla ended up going five innings, allowing three runs on three hits and five walks while striking out two. He is 6-10 with a 5.76 ERA on the season. "We were hoping he could get us past five [innings]," Washington said. "He just had problems with his command early." Frank Catalanotto gave Padilla a 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run in the first inning. But that was the highlight of the Rangers' offensive night, as they were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and lost for the eighth time in the last nine games. They finished 2-8 on the nine-game road trip while hitting .256 with runners in scoring position, including .206 in those eight losses. "What was surprising is our situational hitting wasn't very good," Washington said. "We got very good at it, but for some reason we got away from it. I don't know if it was us, I don't know if it was the pitchers or what. We just went south. Hopefully when we get back to Texas we can pick it up again." They'll get another chance. Nobody is quite sure if Padilla will get another chance before the season is over, but there is a good chance that he could make one more start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Monday. Padilla is still facing a seven-game suspension for his role in Sunday's altercation with the Oakland Athletics and outfielder Nick Swisher. He has appealed the suspension and the Rangers aren't sure when it will be heard. It may not be until after Monday, which would mean he could pitch against the Angels. One plausible scenario is Padilla pitching Monday and then dropping the suspension. That would mean missing the last five games of this season and the first two games of 2008. He could then pitch the third game. If he is on suspension by Monday, the Rangers could turn to Armando Galarraga. The rookie right-hander made his second Major League appearance in relief of Padilla on Wednesday and held the Twins to one run in three innings. He had one cut fastball that ran across the plate to Jason Kubel, who hit it off the upper deck in right field for a home run in the seventh inning. But that was it, as Galarraga was able to extricate himself out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning without allowing the Twins to score. "I thought Galarraga threw really well tonight," Connor said. "I was impressed with the way he went after hitters. One ball cut across the strike zone, but I thought he was really impressive." Connor liked Galarraga so much that he's all he wanted to talk about. He twice answered questions about Padilla by talking about Galarraga. It was an easier topic.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.