—Updated 4/2/12 5:43 AM—
It turns out Tim Stauffer’s triceps injury is the real reason he’s not getting the start.
It’s the battle cry of fans and struggling players. It’s the one phrase that can turn a bad situation into a meaningless one. It’s the chant of a thousand internet bloggers looking for a reason to hold out hope for certain former prospects or falling stars. It’s a few words strung together, and I’ve used them myself numerous times. Spring training stats don’t mean anything.
However, the Padres choice for Opening Day starter seems to indicate spring training stats actually carry some weight. Everyone from the San Diego Union Tribune and the North County Times to our friends at Gaslamp Ball and this site had Tim Stauffer pegged as the go-to guy on Opening Day. We were all wrong. Yesterday, the Padres announced Edinson Volquez as the number one guy. Certainly, it was no coincidence that the announcement came a day after Satuffer got lit up again in spring ball.
Here’s Stauffer’s spring line: 22 2/3 innings pitched, 1-3 record, 6.75 ERA, 11 strikeouts, six walks, 17 runs, 35 hits. Those are some pretty horrid numbers. Stauffer has been the Padres most consistent pitcher, and it seemed logical that with Mat Latos gone, Stauff was a shoo-in for the Opening Day gig. Unfortunately for Stauffer, spring training numbers mater.
Edinson Volquez has a far different line: 20 2/3 innings pitched, 2-0 record, 3.48 ERA, 13 strikeouts, 11 walks, eight runs, 12 hits. The 11 walks show Volquez is still struggling with control, but the relatively low hits totals prove that when batters are making contact, they aren’t doing much with the ball. Volquez has the makings of an ace, he’s been an ace, and he needs a confidence boost.
The Padres announcing Volquez as the Opening Day starter does more than settle the collective questions of writers and fans, it helps Volquez feel as if he’s truly part of the team and it gives him added confidence to perform his best. Volquez is one of those pitchers who either succeeds greatly or fails spectacularly. Making him the Opening Day starter is a proactive step to help push Volquez towards the latter.
As for Stauffer, he will still be a major player in the Padres rotation. As it stands now, he will be the number three starter. This isn’t to suggest that Volquez is the team ace. That’s a role that will eventually fall to Cory Luebke is things go right. For now though, the rotation will look like this: Volquez, Luebke, Stauffer, Richard, Moseley. No one outside of San Diego is going to think twice about this rotation, but combined, they have the makings to sneak up and surprise a lot of people.