Left-handed starter Eric Stults is forcing the Padres to take a second look at their future pitching plans.
As it is now, the Padres have only two starting pitchers -- left-hander Clayton Richard and right-hander Edinson Volquez -- they can depend on going into 2013. Right-hander Jason Marquis will file for free agency. Left-hander Cory Luebke certainly won't be ready for the start of next season following elbow reconstruction surgery. And you can't depend 100 percent on anyone from the long list of rehabbing starters.
In fact, the Padres' careers of Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley are likely over.
Which brings us to the 32-year-old Stults.
The Padres signed Stults on May 17 as an emergency replacement for the injury-depleted rotation. The Padres also signed Marquis, Kip Wells and Ross Ohlendorf with no promises of retaining any of the four past the end of the season. In fact, they have already released Wells and Ohlendorf. Marquis is on the disabled list.
But Stults picked up his seventh win of the season Sunday in the Padres' 6-4 win in San Francisco. He is 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA. And the Padres are 9-4 in his 13 starts -- the highest winning percentage of any starter this season.
Stults seems to have hit on a formula for success with the Padres. He's not the first starting pitcher to jump-start a fading career as a Padre at Petco Park. The line starts with David Wells and includes, Randy Wolf, Aaron Harang, Kevin Correia and even Greg Maddux.
What is the difference in Stults? Partially Petco Park and partially working with pitching coach Darren Balsley.
"I used to work with only three pitches because I threw the curve for strikes about 20 percent of the time," Stults said. "Now I can throw four pitches for strikes. A lot of that is working with Balsley."
Stults uses the curve as part of his velocity range. Stults' velocity Sunday had an 18 mph range, with his fastball topping out at 91 and his curve dropping in at speeds down to 73. And Stults doesn't have just a 91 mph fastball. He throws his fastball at a variety of speeds to an assortment of spots.
Manager Bud Black called Sunday's effort "pretty typical Stults." "He threw a mix of pitches at a wide range of velocity to keep hitters off balance, keep them guessing."