As baseball season inches closer to the start of the regular season, the San Diego Padres are one of the few teams that have yet to name an opening day starter. Last year's Opening Day starter, Jon Garland, is now pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chris Young, who started the second game of the year, is now a Met.
While the Padres lack a true "number one," their rotation should be very good. With their top two starters missing from last year, the Padres will have a new opening day starter in 2011. The obvious choice is 23-year-old Mat Latos, who put up a solid 2.92 ERA and won 14 games in 2010. However, Latos has struggled this spring, and having him start Opening Day, may put added pressure on the young pitcher.
Newly acquired Aaron Harang has the most experience, as he has started the last five Opening Day's for the Cincinnati Reds. But Harang, is coming off a terrible 2010, and looks like he will start the opener at Petco Park.
However, if I were Bud Black, I would hand the ball to Tim Stauffer. Stauffer, still just 28, has been through a lot in his young career. He was written off a few years ago, after injuries and ineffectiveness looked poised to list him in the long category of Padres draft busts. When injuries dogged the rotation in 2009, he pitched well, putting himself back in the Padres plans. His 2010 solidified his place on the Padres rotation.
When the Padres placed Stauffer in the rotation in August, he was arguably their best pitcher down the stretch, putting up a 2.57 ERA. His last start was an absolute gem, as he gave up just 1 run in 6 2/3 innings against the Giants, allowing the team to play a meaningful game on the final day of the season. His spring stats have also been quite good as well.
Stauffer has overcome so much in his young career, and taking the mound March 31st in St. Louis would be an ultimate victory for those who never quit grinding.