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03/29/11 7:30 PM ET

Stauffer right choice for Padres on Opening Day

Tim Stauffer might not have been the most logical pick to start Opening Day for the Padres, although his manager is certainly convinced that he's the right pitcher for the job.

"It's a great feather in his cap from where he has been," Padres manager Bud Black said.

The Padres had their sights set on having right-hander Mat Latos, a 14-game winner last season, start Thursday against the Cardinals at 1:15 p.m. PT in St. Louis.

But Latos is instead on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder.

Enter Stauffer.

The Padres didn't have to scramble at all to find a replacement, actually choosing the one starting pitcher who has pitched well this spring in the 28-year-old Stauffer.

"I really liked the way Stauff has thrown all spring ... it dovetails the way he threw at the end of last season," Black said. "He's in a good frame of mind physically and mentally leading into this start."

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Padres 5, Cardinals 3 (11 inn.)
WP: Neshek   LP: Augenstein   SV: Bell
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But Stauffer certainly qualifies as a sentimental pick of sorts for all that he's overcome in a professional career that's held plenty of trials and tribulations.

Stauffer, bothered by shoulder trouble from even before he signed with the Padres, got to the big leagues briefly in 2006, and then it appeared his career stalled one year later when he allowed 18 earned runs in two starts.

Seeking a solution to his troublesome shoulder, Stauffer had labrum surgery and missed the entire 2008 season. He reached San Diego in '09, positing a 3.58 ERA in 73 innings, before having a breakout season a year ago.

Not even an emergency appendectomy in May after his first start of the season -- which he self-diagnosed on his iPhone -- could derail a dream season.

Stauffer went 6-5 with a 1.85 ERA over 32 appearances last season, as he moved from long relief into an important spot in the rotation in September, where he was one of the most effective pitchers on the staff.

How good was Stauffer a year ago?

In the heat of a pennant race of September -- when the National League West came down to the final weekend -- there was one pitcher Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't want to run into.

It wasn't Latos, Clayton Richard or Jon Garland -- all 14-game winners a year ago.

"I was talking to Bochy, and he said the guy [he] didn't want to face the most on that staff was Stauff," former Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "This guy has become a bona fide pitcher in the National League."

Being healthy, Stauffer said, was paramount to his success last season.

"This is as good as I've felt physically, this year and going into last year, since going into pro ball," Stauffer said. "I think I have learned a lot of things mentally about the game -- control emotions, take it very seriously and do the work in between to be successful.

"I think I've figured out a good game plan the last year or two."

That good roll continued this spring for Stauffer.

Stauffer was clearly the best starting pitcher in camp this spring. After allowing five runs in his first spring start, on Feb. 27, he allowed five runs over 18 innings in his last four starts. He had 14 strikeouts during that stretch.

He missed one start late in spring with a sore hip flexor, but he pitched well in a subsequent start, making Black's decision -- with Latos on the DL -- easier.

"It's a great honor," Stauffer said. "There's three or four other guys who are deserving. I'm looking forward to getting out there Thursday."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.