Stauffer named Padres' Opening Day starter

Stauffer named Padres' Opening Day starter

Stauffer named Padres' Opening Day starter
PEORIA, Ariz. -- To be perfectly clear, the Padres' decision to name Tim Stauffer as their Opening Day starter on Friday wasn't exclusively a reward for all he's overcome since being the fourth-overall pick in the 2003 Draft.

But maybe it had something to do with it.

"It's a great feather in his cap," Padres manager Bud Black said, "from where he's been."

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Stauffer will make his first Opening Day start on March 31, when the Padres open against the Cardinals in St. Louis. It will complete an unlikely rise for a former first-rounder whose career looked like it had stalled in 2007, who then had shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2008 season, only to rise to prominence again.

Not to mention the emergency appendectomy he had last May, after a self-diagnosis on his iPhone.

"It's a great honor," Stauffer said. "There's three or four other guys who are deserving. I'm looking forward to getting out there Thursday."

Stauffer, dogged by a sore shoulder from before the time the Padres drafted him in 2003, had two miserable starts with the Padres in '07, allowing 18 earned runs in two starts. He then missed the entire '08 season after having shoulder surgery before beginning his climb to the top again.

Last year, Stauffer started the season in long relief, though his season took a detour in May when he needed an emergency appendectomy while the team was in San Francisco.

Stauffer, who went 6-5 with a 1.85 ERA over 32 appearances last season, moved into the rotation in September, where he was one of the most effective pitchers on the staff.

How good was Stauffer?

In the heated pennant race of September, when the National League West came down to the final weekend, there was only one pitcher Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't want to run into.

"I was talking to Bochy, and he said the guy [he] didn't want to face the most on that staff was Stauff," said former Padres general manager Kevin Towers. "This guy has become a bonafide pitcher in the National League."

That good roll has continued this spring.

"This is as good as I've felt physically, this year and going into last year, since going into pro ball," Stauffer said. "I think I have learned a lot of things mentally about the game, control emotions, take it very seriously and do the work in between to be successful.

"I think I've figured out a good game plan the last year or two."

Stauffer had clearly been the best starting pitcher in camp this spring. After allowing five runs in his first spring start, on Feb. 27, he's allowed five runs in his last four starts, spanning 18 innings, with 14 strikeouts.

"I really liked the way Stauff has thrown all spring ... it dovetails the way he threw at the end of last season," Black said. "He's in a good frame of mind physically and mentally leading into this start [St. Louis]."

Stauffer wasn't the clear choice, though. Up until Friday morning, it looked as if another right-hander, Mat Latos, a 14-game winner from a year ago, would make the Opening Day start.

Latos had even been on a precise schedule, throwing every fifth day, to where his normal day to pitch would have fallen on March 31. On Wednesday, Latos developed a sore right shoulder and his spring start that was scheduled for Saturday was pushed back.

Technically, Latos has an inflamed bursa sac, though he admitted Friday to feeling better than he did on Thursday, when it was difficult for him to put on a shirt. Black said there's no timetable as to when Latos will pitch.

"There were a couple of hiccups we took into consideration," said Black, who said he is not prepared to announce the rest of his rotation.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.