ST. LOUIS -- As far as he knows, David Wells will make his next scheduled start for the Padres on Saturday in Cincinnati.

"If I'm not, I guess it would be the end," Wells said, smiling as he stood in the dugout at Busch Stadium. "But if I'm not starting, then I'm probably on a flight back to the ranch."

Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Bud Black said that, as of Tuesday, Wells would make his start against the Reds, even after yielding seven runs over just four innings on Monday, his fourth consecutive poor start.

But Towers indicated Tuesday that there has been plenty of internal discussion regarding Wells and his spot in the rotation. Wells, who is 5-8 with a 5.54 ERA over 22 starts this season, has allowed 26 earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings.

"We certainly have thoughts on it," Towers said. "We're taking it day-to-day. We haven't decided what we're going to do, probably in the next day or so, we'll know."

Wells is certainly well aware of his recent struggles and realizes that he must improve if he's to remain a part of the Padres pitching staff.

"I'm not to the point where I'm second-guessing myself," he said. "But I'm going home if this continues, I'm going home early. I'm being tested right now and I don't know how many tests I can fail."

Wells' last four starts have essentially followed the same pattern. He has generally pitched well in the early innings only to get hurt later. Of the 16 runs that he has allowed during this stretch, 13 have come in the fourth inning or later.

On Monday, Wells carried a shutout into the fifth inning before allowing the first seven batters to reach base in a 10-run inning. The inning started with a few "seeing-eye" hits, as Black called them, leaving him to feel Wells was more snake-bit than awful.

"You think everything is good and all [heck] breaks loose," Wells said. "It's bizarre. I guess when things are bad, these things happen. I felt like I threw the ball good. I kept the ball down, I didn't hang anything."

And, at this point, Wells isn't about to hang his head even if his future in the organization might be precarious.

"A lot of things can be said of the age," Wells said, "but I'm still going out there battling."

The walking wounded: San Diego trainer Todd Hutcheson has had his hands full lately, particularly with outfielders Brian Giles, Milton Bradley and Scott Hairston.

Giles is nursing a sprained right ankle that he suffered on Aug. 1 while making a running catch before running into the right-field wall. Giles started Monday against the Cardinals, though he left later in the game.

"He's getting better," Black said. "He felt a little bit of swelling as the game went on, a little discomfort but nothing that should keep him from playing."

Giles was in the lineup on Tuesday.

Bradley hasn't played since Friday against the Giants because of a sore right hamstring that continues to give him trouble. He could be a candidate for the disabled list.

"It doesn't happen overnight. We're still a few days away. If this lingers on the next three or four days, it's [disabled list] something we'll think about. But we are not to that point yet."

As for Hairston, who hit a ball off his left foot on Saturday, Black said that he's "close to 100 percent." Hairston appeared in Monday's game in center field in relief of Mike Cameron.

Sledge is back: The Padres made a roster move before Tuesday's game as they optioned right-handed pitcher Mike Thompson back to Triple-A Portland two days after recalling him.

The corresponding move had outfielder Terrmel Sledge rejoining the team. Sledge was hitting .370 in eight games for the Beavers after he was optioned on July 25.

With Giles and Bradley on the mend, the move gives the Padres a healthy outfielder and a left-handed bat off the bench.

"Terrmel came in to add reinforcements to our outfield situation," Black said. "Sledgie gives us another left-handed option off the bench."

As for Thompson, he was recalled to do what he did on Monday -- pitch in long relief just in case one of the team's starting pitchers got in trouble.

Thompson came into Monday's game in relief of Wells during the Cardinals' 10-run fifth inning. He threw four innings, allowing two earned runs in a 40-pitch outing.

No more Nick: The Padres have officially shut down first-round Draft pick, left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt, after just three professional appearances this summer with Class A Fort Wayne.

Towers indicated Tuesday that Schmidt -- the 23rd overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft in June -- was being shut down for precautionary measures after reporting some tenderness in his left elbow.

"He threw a lot of innings [for Arkansas]," Towers said. "After his first start, he said his arm was a little tender at the elbow."

The Padres had planned on only using Schmidt for about 50 innings this summer after he threw 124 innings for the Razorbacks.

Schmidt was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three games for Fort Wayne. Those three appearances covered seven innings.

Friar notes: Former Padres infielder/outfielder Russell Branyan signed a Minor League contract with the team he was originally drafted by, the Cleveland Indians, Tuesday. Branyan, who was released by the Padres on July 28 after hitting .197, will report to the Indians' Triple-A team in Buffalo later this week. ... Matt Bush, the converted infielder who is now a pitcher, has been promoted to Class A Fort Wayne. The No. 1 overall pick in 2003, was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 innings with the Padres entry in the Arizona League. Bush had 16 strikeouts over those 7 1/3 innings with just two walks. ... Padres closer Trevor Hoffman needs one save for his 12th career 30-save season. Hoffman's 11 seasons with 30 or more saves are a Major League record. ... Jake Peavy, who started on Tuesday, needs one victory to tie Andy Benes for fifth place on the team's career victory list with 69. ... Tim Stauffer allowed two runs over six innings in Portland's 5-3 victory on Monday over Memphis. Another Minor League pitcher, Will Inman of Double-A San Antonio, allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts in picking up his second victory since coming over from the Brewers organization in the Scott Linebrink trade.

On deck: The Padres play the third game of their four-game series against the Cardinals at 5:10 p.m. PT on Wednesday. Greg Maddux (7-8, 4.20) is scheduled to get the start for the Padres. The Cardinals will counter with Kip Wells (4-13, 5.58).