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Jorge Padilla

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Jorge Rafael Padilla

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Jorge Padilla made his major league debut with the Washington Nationals in 2009 in his 12th season in professional baseball.

Padilla was a third-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1998 amateur draft. Of their first five picks, four would spent their pro careers primarily as outfielders; Pat Burrell and Eric Valent went in the first round and Jason Michaels was picked in round four. Jorge was the only one of the three assigned to the Martinsville Phillies, Philadelphia's lowest affiliate outside Latin America, though the other three were college players. Padilla hit .356/~.383/.556 in 23 games for Martinsville; had he qualified, he would have ranked 4th in the Appalachian League in average.

In 1999, the young Puerto Rican played for the Batavia Muckdogs (.252/~.315/.340 in 65 games) and Piedmont Boll Weevils (.208/~.231/.333 in 44 games), striking out 123 times in 406 AB overall. Padilla was with Piedmont for all of 2000 and improved significantly, hitting .305/.346/.482. He placed 9th in the South Atlantic League in batting average.

At age 21, Padilla batted .260/.343/.441 for the Clearwater Threshers. He hit 16 home runs, tying Chase Utley for the club lead; he also stole 23 bases in 29 tries. Making it to AA in 2002, Padilla joined Valent in the outfield and hit .256/.322/.370 with 30 doubles and 32 steals (in 43 tries).

Padilla returned to Reading for the 2003 campaign and batted .295/.363/.418 in 46 games, but his season was cut short by a hand injury that required surgery. In '04, the Rio Piedras native returned to the field with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons and hit .253/.348/.343 in an unimpressive campaign.

Padilla missed the first two months of 2005 with an injury, then spent 14 games on a rehab stint with Clearwater before returning to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .270/.324/.324 in 59 games for the Red Barons, including a .324 batting average against left-handers.

In the winter of '05-'06, Jorge hit .291 and slugged .465 for the Lobos de Arecibo of the Puerto Rican Winter League. He joined the New York Mets chain for 2006, which he spent with the Binghamton Mets, batting .295/.358/.415. He hit an inside-the-park homer during the season. He finished 4th in the Eastern League in average behind Cuban Michel Abreu, Australian Brett Roneberg and Australian Trent Oeltjen in an internationally-flavored leaderboard. Padilla was third in the EL with 142 hits, trailing Denard Span and Brandon Moss.

Padilla hit .285 for Arecibo in 2006-2007, then was with the Kansas City Royals organization for the 2007 summer. He split his time between the Omaha Royals (.291/.336/.439 in 55 games) and Wichita Wranglers (.336/.414/.518 in 69 games). Overall, he clouted 16 home runs and stole 19 bases in 25 tries. His .316 average led Royals minor leaguers. Had he qualified, he would have paced the Texas League in batting average.

When the Puerto Rican League was inactive in 2007-2008, Jorge spent the winter with the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. He hit .314, 10th in the LMP. His 45 runs tied Cristhian Presichi for the league lead. In the last game of the finals, his hit off Pablo Ortega scored Alfredo Amezaga with the only run as the Yaquis won a 1-0 duel. He then hit .250/.333/.292 for the Yaquis in the 2008 Caribbean Series.

Moving on to the Washington Nationals chain for 2008, Padilla played for the Columbus Clippers (.312/.385/.401 in 81 G) and Harrisburg Senators (.330/.437/.396 in 33 G). His .317 composite average failed to lead Nationals farmhands as Roger Bernadina hit .335. Had he qualified, Padilla would have been 2nd in the Eastern League and 5th in the International League in average. He topped 1,000 career hits in the minor leagues.

Padilla starred in the Puerto Rican League when it was revived in 2008-2009, hitting .317/.421/.612 for Arecibo with 10 homers, 30 runs and 44 RBI in 38 games. He led the League in slugging, OPS, homers amd RBI (10 ahead of runner-up Raul Casanova) and was third in runs behind Jesus Feliciano and Ivan DeJesus Jr. Padilla won MVP honors and was placed on Puerto Rico's provisional roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, although he failed to make the final cut.

Padilla began 2009 with the Syracuse Chiefs and was batting .367/.424/.482 in 95 games. He was easily leading the International League in average (.036 over Jordan Brown). When Austin Kearns was placed on the DL, Padilla was called up, finally making his big league debut a week before his 30th birthday.

In his first MLB game, Padilla pinch-hit for John Lannan against Luis Ayala and lined out.

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