PHILADELPHIA -- On one hand, Padres manager Bud Black understands Tim Stauffer's desire to be a starting pitcher again.
However, Black sees absolute value in Stauffer's current role in long relief. And at this point, the results speak for themselves -- good results, at that.
"We're talking about it a little," Black said of Stauffer's future. "But I like him in the 'pen. He's a guy you trust to come in and throw strikes. That's big."
Going into Wednesday's game against the Phillies, Stauffer is 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA over his past 18 games and 28 innings. Better still, he's allowed 15 hits in that stretch with 30 strikeouts.
"I feel better now than I probably have at any point of the season, as far as arm strength, mechanically, everything coming together," Stauffer said. "I'm being a little more aggressive in the zone with the fastball, so it stems from that. That helps me get ahead of hitters and throw more quality pitches later in the at-bat."
It's been a different year of sorts for Stauffer, who signed a Minor League contract with the organization in January. He had surgery on his flexor bundle in his right elbow in August 2012 and started the spring on an abbreviated throwing plan.
Stauffer began the season with Triple-A Tucson and was 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA in eight starts before he was promoted in May. He's been a big part of the bullpen ever since, going 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA over 63 innings.
"With Stauff, we've seen the velocity come back," Black said. "His entire season, on balance, has been very good. Now I'm seeing the resiliency come back and his feel for his changeup has been good. The mix of pitches has been sharp.
"This is a guy who is 30 who is in a good spot in his career."
Stauffer -- who is under team control for 2014 -- is enjoying this roll he's on, even if he'd rather be starting. He spent the entire 2011 as a starter, going 9-12 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 starts.
"That's what I would prefer," he said. "That would be my first choice. If that opportunity comes, I'll be ready for it. But I'm enjoying this."