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Tom Krasovic wrote:Padres insist pitcher's doubters will be proved wrong
MPEORIA, Ariz. – arch 4, 2005
As Tim Stauffer's career begins to unfold, Padres scouting director Bill Gayton sees parallels to Khalil Greene.
Gayton says the skepticism of scouts who regard Stauffer's upside as that of a No. 5 starter – rather than a rotation mainstay – calls to mind other misguided skepticism.
"They're wrong," Gayton said. "Those are the same people who said Khalil Greene couldn't play at short. I never doubted my ability as a scout. If Tim Stauffer pitches in the big leagues, he's not going to be just a No. 5 guy."
Gayton chose Stauffer fourth overall in the 2003 draft out of the University of Richmond, just one year after he took Greene 13th overall out of Clemson.
While Greene was outproducing most major league shortstops as a rookie last year, Stauffer was going 11-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 28 games at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A.
Adding to the luster, it was Stauffer's first professional season, coming after shoulder weakness forced him to sit out the 2003 season and the fall instructional league.
Still, some major league scouts said Stauffer's raw pitch speed and quality are those of a No. 5 starter. They often cited a fastball that averaged about 88 mph. Major leaguers, it was said, wouldn't swing at and miss Stauffer's offerings.
Gayton and Stauffer are aware of those appraisals.
"Stauffer's out to prove everybody wrong, including people in our organization," Gayton said. "He's definitely on a mission."
Triple-A pitching coach Gary Lance, who witnessed eight of Stauffer's outings last year, said varying perspectives are at work.
"You can't really blame scouts, because they've got parameters to work around," he said. "But hitters will tell you they'd rather hit against a guy who's throwing 98 miles per hour but straight than against a Stauffer throwing a sinker down by your ankles.
"Tim can hit 92, 93 miles per hour, but he knows he can't live there. He has an awareness of what hitters are trying to do. It's like (Greg) Maddux. He knows if a guy is moving up in the box to try to hit his sinker."
Stauffer, 22, said the pitcher he most admires is Maddux, the longtime Braves and now Cubs ace who relies on a sinkerball and is a master of pitch economy. Unlike most young pitchers, who lust for strikeouts, Stauffer intends for hitters to hit the ball.
To that end, the right-hander uses a sinker that Gayton said should keep Greene busy in years ahead.
"To strike a lot of guys out you've got to throw a lot of pitches," Stauffer said. "That gets you out of the games earlier. You don't want to throw it over the middle of the plate, but you try to get them to put the ball in play and let the defense work."
Stauffer, 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, has gained about 15 pounds of muscle since the Padres drafted him.
It's the fastball speed that he lost from his college days that concerned some scouts, who say they're obligated to raise yellow flags over Stauffer's shoulder.
Stauffer said his shoulder ailment from a year earlier didn't cause any significant reduction in pitch quality.
"As you get older, you learn to conserve your pitches," he said. "You've got a lot longer season, more innings. You learn to save your bullets. You conserve your energy."
Lance said Stauffer is off to a fast start in major league camp. "He's throwing some very, very sharp curves," he said.
For now, veteran left-hander Darrell May holds the inside track to the No. 5 starter job, with knuckleballer Steve Sparks, Justin Germano and Stauffer in the mix.
Gayton can't predict certain health for a pitcher's arm, but he said a healthy Stauffer, as Greene did, would figure out how to succeed in the majors.
"He's got makeup that's off the charts," Gayton said, referring to the pitcher's competitive skills and poise. "We talk about Khalil. Stauffer's a pretty special kid. Stauffer is going to be a good big leaguer.
"What's funny is that there is this perception because you pick high in the draft, you should be going for a No. 1 starter or No. 2 starter. But there are 30 major league clubs, and there are not 30 true No. 1s who are major leaguer starters."
True to his college major – political science – Stauffer is as diplomatic as a seasoned wonk when asked about his skeptics.
"I think everybody has something to prove at some point," he said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I'll leave that to the people that are watching the game – that's their job."
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