As the right-hander rehabbed from season-ending neck surgery ?? a procedure he underwent last June ?? he kept battling the doubt. But at age 34, Padilla accepted the reality that he wasn't getting any younger.
"I was asking God to give me the strength to bounce back," Padilla said. "If I could pitch again, then great. The only thing was I didn't want to be like how I used to be, where I couldn't do anything and was in pain."
Less than a year later, Padilla is back in business. He's one of a handful candidates vying for a spot in the Red Sox rotation, competing against the likes of Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook and Carlos Silva for the starting nod.
It took a dazzling performance in the Nicaraguan Winter League to land him back on the major league radar. After touching the mid-90s with his fastball, Padilla started to turn heads once again.
In retrospect, Padilla said his decision to pitch in his native country ?? as opposed to biding his time in the offseason ?? turned out to be beneficial.
"That's what I was talking about with my agent because I thought it was better to train there because I was closer to my family," Padilla said. "I got to handle my personal things. When I trained, I trained at 100 percent because I had all the time in the world."
As Padilla gears up for the competition, he has experience on his side. The Nicaragua native is just two years removed from being the Dodgers' Opening Day starter. He tallied a 6-5 record and 1.084 WHIP in 16 starts that season.
Through 13 seasons in the majors with the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Rangers and Dodgers, Padilla has posted a 104-90 record, a 4.31 ERA and has earned one All-Star selection (2002).
Before his season-ending surgery in 2011, he also impressed as a reliever, converting three saves. Despite his aptitude in the bullpen, Padilla opted to sign a minor-league deal with the Red Sox in order to revive his starting aspirations.
"There were other teams that wanted my services but as a reliever," Padilla said. "I think I can still start games and the Red Sox had the opportunity here for me to be a starter and they gave me a chance to win a rotation spot."
For that reason, Padilla's mentality during this spring training is to win the starting job or bust. When asked if he would accept a bullpen role with the Red Sox, the veteran answered "probably not."
"Because I want to be a starter and I'd just keep looking for a chance to become a starter," Padilla said. "If I can't do it here, then I'll try somewhere else."
Silva, arguably Padilla's closest friend in the Red Sox clubhouse, considers the hurler a viable threat for the fifth spot in the rotation.
"I can learn from Padilla because he's always been a starter," Silva said. "I started my career in the bullpen before becoming a starter and now I'm back to competing to be a starter, but he's just a great pitcher."
To improve his chances at starting in the rotation, Padilla made an effort to shed weight in the offseason. Now, just one week into spring training, the 34-year-old is confident in his chances at reliving his days as a starter.
"As long as I'm healthy, I think there's a great chance," Padilla said of winning the job. "I'll do everything possible and we'll see the results."
He's far from done with baseball, indeed.