Giant start for Padres' Tim Stauffer

Updated: September 11, 2010, 12:39 PM ET
By Buster Olney
At about 11 a.m. last Monday morning, Tim Stauffer's job was to pitch in middle relief for the Padres. But a half-hour later he got the phone call that Mat Latos was feeling sick, and by the end of the day Stauffer's standing had changed dramatically.

He'll get the ball Saturday as the starting pitcher against the Giants, at a moment when the Padres are trying to regain their footing in the NL West race: San Diego fell into a virtual tie with San Francisco on Friday night. Stauffer faces Madison Bumgarner, and the winner will be in first place, alone.

It doesn't matter that Stauffer's recent history is mostly as a reliever. Résumés and past roles mean almost nothing in a pennant race. If you get outs on the mound you will keep getting the ball, and if you get hits at the plate you will be in the lineup the next day. This is how September works. For the contenders, there is little patience and no big-picture thinking; there is only an immediate need for results.

Nine days ago, Matt Fox was destined to finish out his season in Triple-A for the Twins, but then the dominoes fell in his direction: an elbow problem for Scott Baker, an extra-inning Twins game that forced Ron Gardenhire to use Nick Blackburn in relief and an overnight phone call informing Fox that he was being promoted to start in the majors. Immediately.

Fox was added to the 40-man roster to start against the Rangers on Sept. 3, and afterward, the Twins needed the roster spot and tried to pass him through waivers -- and he was claimed by the Red Sox.

Stauffer got a phone call at 11:30 on Monday morning with the news that Latos might not be able to start that night against the Dodgers, and to prepare Stauffer for the possibility that he might be needed. Stauffer, 28, has a long history as a starting pitcher, with almost three dozen starts in the majors. "I don't mind the short notice," he said the other day. "As long as I'm physically fine, it really doesn't matter whether it's 20 minutes' [notice], or two hours."

Stauffer was excellent within his pitch-count limits, throwing four innings and allowing one run, and the Padres ended their 10-game losing streak. So he was informed the next day that he would get another start, in the middle of the biggest series of the year. "I'm excited for the opportunity to help give us a chance to win," he said.