Stauffer eager to help, as starter or reliever

Stauffer eager to help, as starter or reliever

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Tim Stauffer was going through his options as a free agent for the first time in his career this winter, he wanted to find a team that was open to him starting or pitching in high-leverage roles.

He found the Twins to be a perfect fit -- signing a one-year deal worth $2.2 million in December -- and the club has followed through on its promise, as Stauffer is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation along with Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Alex Meyer and Trevor May.

But given Stauffer's success in the bullpen with the Padres the last two seasons, he's still more likely to open the year as a reliever. Stauffer, 32, posted a combined 3.21 ERA over the last two seasons pitching in relief, while giving up nine runs in eight innings in two spot starts.

"I like both but obviously there's a difference," Stauffer said of starting versus relieving. "I probably prefer to start, but there are things I like about the bullpen, too, such as being in the game every day. At this point in my career, I'm open to whatever the team needs."

Stauffer said he believes the fact his mixing of pitches as a starting pitcher has helped him as a reliever, because he's able to keep hitter's off-balance. Stauffer's fastball averages roughly 91 mph, but he's been able to strike out 131 batters in 134 innings over the last two years because he also uses a two-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup and a slider.

"It's just a mix and it varies game-to-game," Stauffer said. "I'm not a guy who blows fastballs by guys. I try to get the ball to move, keep it down, and get ground balls. But when I need to get strikeouts, I feel like I have some pitches I can use that help me be able to do that."

Twins manager Paul Molitor also praised Stauffer for his perseverance, as he underwent surgery as a Minor Leaguer to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in 2009 and also had surgery to repair the flexor pronator mass in his elbow in '12.

"He's one of those guys whose character shows up right away," said Molitor, who met with Stauffer at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. "Obviously it takes those kind of personality traits to be a guy and persevere. You know the hours will be massive and the odds may not even be in your favor, but you've got to persevere through it."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.