Pitcher Tim Stauffer hadn’t started a game for the San Diego Padres for two years when manager Bud Black selected the Saratoga Central Catholic High School graduate to start last Friday’s game against the Chicago Cubs.
The Padres were in need of a starter after Robbie Erlin was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Thursday with elbow soreness.
Stauffer, who has been pitching in middle relief, made the most of his start against the Cubs. The right-hander pitched five shutout innings as the Padres rolled to an 11-1 victory. He allowed two hits, struck out five and walked one. Stauffer (2-0) threw 77 pitches, 51 for strikes.
The effort earned Stauffer another start Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
“It was nice to get the opportunity and have it go well and get the pitch count up, and for us to win, as a whole,” Stauffer said in a telephone interview this week. “As a whole, it was a good night.”
The Padres made Stauffer’s life much easier by jumping out to a 7-0 lead after two innings.
“That definitely helps,” Stauffer said. “It might change the other team’s approach a little bit. They’re going to, maybe, be a little bit more aggressive at times. I can change my approach. I can be not as fine where giving up a run here and there isn’t going to cause your team to lose. So I was able to throw strikes and get the pitch count where it needed to be and give some innings to the bullpen.”
Padres manager Bud Black was impressed with Stauffer’s effort.
“We felt good about ‘Stauff,’ ” Black told reporters after the game. “We didn’t know he’d be able to give us five. He has been out there before. We thought he could handle that. Giving us five was great.
“We thought it was going to be a short start, so five [innings] was outstanding.”
Stauffer’s last start for the Padres was May 14, 2012, against the Washington Nationals. That proved to be his final game of the season. Stauffer was shut down because of an elbow strain. On Aug. 31 of that season, he had surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right elbow.
“Anytime there is an injury, you never know,” Stauffer said. “You see what’s going around in baseball these days. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game. You never know how your body’s going to respond. I expected that I would be back.
“I was trying to take it one day at a time and get better and prove I was healthy. I knew I could pitch once I was healthy.”
Stauffer, who turns 32 on Monday, is in his 10th season with the Padres. He had been primarily a starter for San Diego before the elbow injury.
He began last season pitching for the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, Tucson. He made eight starts there before the Padres called him up on May 17. Stauffer began feeling like he was back three weeks into the season.
“[That’s] when everything kind of clicked,” Stauffer said. “The arm strength got there. I was able to put everything together mechanically after really not pitching for a full year. You have to shake off a little bit of the rust. But being healthy and confident, that’s the biggest thing.”
When Stauffer rejoined the Padres, instead of returning to the starting rotation, he was placed in the bullpen. He pitched in 43 games, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.75 earned run average. He struck out 64 and walked 20 in 692⁄3 innings. Opponents batted .231 against him.
Going into the game against the Diamondbacks, Stauffer had a 1.90 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks. The opposition was hitting .224 against him.
“I prefer to be a starter,” said Stauffer, who has a 28-32 career record with a 3.82 ERA. “But being able to show the team I can do both and be comfortable with both is definitely beneficial. Initially, maybe the transition to the bullpen was a little more of an adjustment. But I think at this point now, going from one to the other isn’t too difficult.
“I haven’t had to change a whole lot. Now, after playing for 10 years, I have a pretty good idea what I need to do to get ready day in and day out, and just the number of throws you take and knowing when to take it easy on your arm that day and your body is telling you to back off a little bit. That’s probably the biggest thing, understanding what you need to do and listen to your body when it’s telling you things.”