Name: Tim Stauffer
DOB: June 2, 1982
Unfortunately, the road traveled was filled with peril for Tim Stauffer. And perhaps more ironically, the one start he did have in San Diego was one of his best of the year.
In five of his first six starts in Triple-A, Stauffer allowed four runs or more while going six innings in just one contest. He settled down in May and early June, allowing 17 earned runs over a seven game span. He was rolling. Things spiraled out of control thereafter.
He would be tagged for five multi-homer games in the next ten games, allowing four runs or more in 14 of his last 15 starts.
Stauffer's success has always been a product of painting the corners, being fearless and working down in the zone. The only painting that occurred this season, however, was a big red "X" on the balls he was throwing. His best month, May, came with a .290 average against and his ball was simply too hittable throughout the season as teams produced a .320 average overall against the right-hander.
With elevated pitches entering the zone, batters were teeing off – crushing 20 homers and 41 doubles leading up to his 5.53 ERA. He ranked in the top five in the Pacific Coast League in losses with 12, three behind former Padre prospect Dennis Tankersley.
It didn't help that the defense behind him was less than perfect but the biggest concern was how many balls were reaching the outfield.
"Stauff had some very good outings," Padres' bench coach and 2006 Portland manager Craig Colbert said. "His numbers were not what he would have wanted them to be, there is no question about it. He had that one start where he went to San Diego and dealt and came back and did not have a very successful start in Triple-A. I don't think it had anything to do with the defense. It had to do with not getting the ball in the right spots when it was going across home plate."
On the encouraging front, Stauffer was able to his pre-surgery form on the fastball, touching 93-94 sporadically throughout the year. The problem was when he dialed it up it came in erratically and hardly ever crossed over the plate for a strike.
"There was a window in there when he did; he was starting to look like his old self," Portland pitching coach Gary Lance explained. "Once again, it was incorrect success. It was pushing the ball, opening up early, left side leaving early, and with a low elbow pushing the ball. He was pushing it at 91, 92, 93. There is always a reason, especially a young guy when they hurt themselves. They are doing something wrong kinesiology-wise. You have to figure it out and get to him before he hurts himself again. It is hard for him to stay closed with that left side and protect."
When he was on his game during his stint in May and June, Stauffer had command of his fastball, was keeping the ball down in the zone and attacking hitters. He did not allow a homer over eight games during that time; in his 20 other starts, he would not pass two games without a ball leaving the yard.
Now 24, Stauffer has time to right the ship and remains on the radar screen. There is a bit of stubbornness to his current mindset. He has tasted the success of the major leagues and understands he can pitch in San Diego. Therein lies part of the problem. He has developed less than stellar habits and there are those who believe he needs to continue his learning before getting another shot. Being open to the learning has also been in question.
"He can obviously pitch in the big leagues," said Lance. "I have let him pitch the way he wanted to pitch and it just hasn't worked. The reason is I can tell by people's expressions, demeanor and body language whether they are willing to listen or not. A huge part of coaching too is to approach guys when they are willing to listen. It doesn't do anybody any good to rant and rave to a guy that it is bouncing off of him."
"He is a guy that obviously has the ability to be successful at the major league level," Mike Couchee, the Padres' roving pitching instructor, said. "Confidence is such a huge part of any part of this game. I think having a little bit of success will bring him back to what he has done, which is locate the ball. I think he got away from pitching his type of game that got him to the big leagues once he got up there. You always talk about does success breed confidence or does confidence breed success. I am a firm believer that you have to have success first. You can act as confident as you want but until you are successful doing something you cant have that confidence that you need to be successful at the major league level. With Tim, I think he is going to get that back and be a very good major league pitcher for a long time."
ETA: Tim Stauffer still has a promising career ahead. He is in line for the fifth spot in the rotation if the Padres hold pat. But there are a few who believe it will take a trip back to the minors before he realizes that his chance depends on continuing to be a student of the game. Stauffer can set himself up as the number one injury replacement provided he hits his spots, pitches down in the zone, and opens his mind up to outside opinions.