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Given opportunity, Stauffer huge for Padres

Given opportunity, Stauffer huge for Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two years ago, Tim Stauffer was recovering from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2008 season and put his entire future up in the air.

This past May, he was sidelined again for almost two months after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

Last month, he was spending much of his time tucked away in the San Diego bullpen as a long reliever, whose services are often reserved for when a game has quickly gotten out of hand.

But on Saturday, the 28-year-old right-hander was put front and center at AT&T Park, and one of the best performances of Stauffer's career is a big reason why the Padres are now on the cusp of a playoff berth after being on the brink of elimination just two days ago.

Stauffer tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in San Diego's 4-2 victory over the Giants to continue his dominance since becoming a permanent member of the starting rotation.

"His command, and that he was able to locate all of his pitches," Padres manager Bud Black said on what made Stauffer successful. "Under these circumstances, and in a hostile environment, he's pitched great."

"I wasn't repeating pitches too often," Stauffer said. "[I was] just trying to move it in and out and trying not to throw too much over the middle."

Since making the move from reliever to starter on Sept. 6, Stauffer has allowed eight earned runs in 34 1/3 innings over six outings. In five of those starts, he's given up one run or fewer.

"He has not only done everything they have asked from him, but he's done it well," Padres outfielder Will Venable said. "He's gone beyond expectations. I think that everyone in here is really proud of him."

Stauffer had a one-hitter working into the seventh inning, with the hit coming in the first on an infield single by Mike Fontenot that was, ironically, deflected by the pitcher's glove. Juan Uribe put a dent in the scoreboard in the seventh when he sent a solo homer to left, but after Stauffer exited the game with one on and one out, the late-inning tandem of Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and Heath Bell that the Padres have called upon so often this year preserved the victory.

Not that Stauffer would have expected anything less, since he was part of one of the most dominant bullpens in the Majors. And for those relievers, finishing Stauffer's job means they get a chance to pick up one of their own.

"Even though he left the bullpen, he's still a bullpen-mate to us," Bell said. "We just feel like when he pitches, it's a straight bullpen day."

Stauffer's finish to the 2010 season could also be viewed as an audition for the '11 rotation, and if that's the case, the numbers would suggest he's passed with flying colors.

But that's not on Stauffer's mind right now. He's finally completed the road to recovery -- even if he lost his appendix along the way -- and has put his team in a position to snatch one of the two available playoff spots remaining heading into the regular season's final day.

"I always knew I had it in me," Stauffer said. "It's nice to finally be able to show what I knew I was capable of but I wasn't able to show when things weren't feeling too good.

"It's just incredible to be a part of a team like this at this time of year. To contribute the way I did, I'm very appreciative."

Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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