Stauffer Signs With Padres Despite Injury
By Will Kimmey
It's already paying dividends for the Padres. Stauffer and his agent, Ron Shapiro, alerted the organization during contract negotiations about a weakness in his shoulder before agreeing to a bonus of less than $1 million Thursday.
San Diego's North County Times reported the bonus was $750,000, but Padres officials declined comment. Whatever the specific figure, it falls far short of the $2.8 million bonus Major League Baseball recommended for the fourth pick, and below the Padres' initial offer of $2.6 million. Wake Forest righthander Kyle Sleeth, the third overall pick, received a $3.35 million bonus from the Tigers.
"Quite honestly, this is a special family and a special kid with a lot of integrity," Gayton said. "They came to us, the agent and they disclosed there was possibly something in the shoulder. Their honesty and integrity is second to none. They didn't have to do that. That's one of the things that's so attractive about him. We tested over 30 potential first-round fits and Tim Stauffer rated number one. That is the separator."
Stauffer said his shoulder felt sore for longer than normal after his final start, a 10-8 loss to UC Riverside in the NCAA regional at Stanford on May 30. Stauffer took the loss, allowing five runs--three earned--on 11 hits and three walks while striking out 11.
"Really my arm felt fine all year," Stauffer said. "After the last game in regionals, I had a little more stiffness and soreness than usual. It persisted for awhile . . . It's just a combination of things, not one game. Over the last couple of years, I've thrown a lot of innings. It's just soreness and fatigue over a time period.
"I finally got it checked out (with an MRI in July), and that's when I found out." Doctors told Stauffer the MRI didn't show a particular problem, but his shoulder joint was weak from wear on his labrum and rotator cuff. He decided to let the Padres know about the results. "It was going to be found out eventually; I wanted to tell them personally," Stauffer said. "They were pretty shocked, as shocked as we were. They had no idea. Even the last game of the season, I was throwing as hard or harder as I had all year."
Stauffer reported to the Padres' Class A Lake Elsinore affiliate Friday to begin working with team trainers to rehabilitate his shoulder. The goal is for him to throw during instructional league, which begins in October. If he's not ready then, he'll continue the rehab and report to spring training. Stauffer and the Padres expect him to return to form after rehab and rest.
"There's a lot of gray," said Tripp Keister, the Padres area scout who followed Stauffer's career and signed him. "Doctors never really say yes or no, just different shades of gray. They think he can get back to where he was, and we hope that and Tim hopes that."
Stauffer went 9-5, 1.97 with 146 strikeouts and 19 walks in 114 innings, including 10 complete games, for the Spiders this spring. He led the nation with a 1.54 ERA and 13 complete games (in 18 starts) as a sophomore, when he tossed 146 innings for Richmond, followed by 63 more for Chatham in the Cape Cod League. That's 323 innings since January 2002.
Neither Stauffer nor the Padres said he was overworked in college, as the preponderance of seven-inning appearances in Atlantic-10 Conference play and his superior control combined to limit his pitch counts. Stauffer said he didn't recall topping 105 pitches more than a few times in college.
"I think it's probably normal," Gayton said. "When you look at that over two seasons, that's 150-plus. I don't think that's out of the ordinary. He's a top starter who has shown the ability to go deep into games."
On the mound, Stauffer continually tweaks his offerings, adding a few miles an hour or taking a few off. He'll throw his fastball anywhere between 87 and 93 mph, and run it up to 95 when he wants. It moves quite a bit, especially late, getting in on the hands of righties. He also throws a knuckle-curve that moves like a slurve and a changeup with plenty of life as well. During his college career, Stauffer added a two-seam fastball, a cut fastball with slider action but at 90 mph, and unveiled a big, 12-to-6 breaking curveball his junior year.
Stauffer's situation recalls three similar cases over the last decade when pitchers drafted in the first round received less-than-expected bonus money because of injuries or the threat thereof. UCLA righthander Pete Janicki sustained a stress fracture in his elbow in a regional against Mississippi State just days after the Angels selected him eighth overall in 1992. He ended up signing a major league contract with a $90,000 bonus and only $215,000 guaranteed.
Four years later, Tennessee righthander R.A. Dickey was about to sign with the Rangers for $810,000 as the 1996 draft's 18th overall pick before a Rangers doctor found he had no ulnar collateral ligament in a routine physical. The Rangers reduced their offer to $75,000.
Billy Traber, the 16th overall selection out of Loyola Marymount in 2000, had a $1.7 million bonus pulled off the table by the Mets when doctors found abnormalities in his elbow that suggested damage to his medial collateral ligament. His bonus was scaled back to $400,000 and he was traded to the Indians in the Roberto Alomar deal just over a year later.