PHILADELPHIA -- It's been a nice run of late for the Padres' pitchers, as the team went into Wednesday's game with a four-win streak and a 6-3 record in its past nine.
Better still, the pitchers have combined for a 2.96 ERA over the past 79 innings, the second-best mark in the Majors behind the A's (2.43) over that same stretch.
"Overall, our starting pitching has been solid," said Padres manager Bud Black.
The Padres have 93 strikeouts in those 79 innings, which ranks second behind the Orioles (105). Half of the 26 earned runs allowed came in a 13-5 loss to the Giants on Sept. 4.
In fact, since Aug. 27, Padres starting pitchers have only lost twice, as Eric Stults -- who made the start Wednesday -- took losses on Aug. 30 and Sept. 4.
Stauffer stellar in long relief for Padres
PHILADELPHIA -- On one hand, Padres manager Bud Black understands Tim Stauffer's desire to be a starting pitcher again.
However, Black sees absolute value in Stauffer's current role in long relief. And at this point, the results speak for themselves -- good results, at that.
"We're talking about it a little," Black said of Stauffer's future. "But I like him in the 'pen. He's a guy you trust to come in and throw strikes. That's big."
Going into Wednesday's game against the Phillies, Stauffer is 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA over his past 18 games and 28 innings. Better still, he's allowed 15 hits in that stretch with 30 strikeouts.
"I feel better now than I probably have at any point of the season, as far as arm strength, mechanically, everything coming together," Stauffer said. "I'm being a little more aggressive in the zone with the fastball, so it stems from that. That helps me get ahead of hitters and throw more quality pitches later in the at-bat."
It's been a different year of sorts for Stauffer, who signed a Minor League contract with the organization in January. He had surgery on his flexor bundle in his right elbow in August 2012 and started the spring on an abbreviated throwing plan.
Stauffer began the season with Triple-A Tucson and was 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA in eight starts before he was promoted in May. He's been a big part of the bullpen ever since, going 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA over 63 innings.
"With Stauff, we've seen the velocity come back," Black said. "His entire season, on balance, has been very good. Now I'm seeing the resiliency come back and his feel for his changeup has been good. The mix of pitches has been sharp.
"This is a guy who is 30 who is in a good spot in his career."
Stauffer -- who is under team control for 2014 -- is enjoying this roll he's on, even if he'd rather be starting. He spent the entire 2011 as a starter, going 9-12 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 starts.
"That's what I would prefer," he said. "That would be my first choice. If that opportunity comes, I'll be ready for it. But I'm enjoying this."
Princeton coach enjoying Venable's big year
PHILADELPHIA -- On Will Venable's official recruiting visit to Princeton for basketball, his father, former big league outfielder Max Venable, stopped by to visit the baseball coach, Scott Bradley.
Bradley and Max Venable had played against each other in the 1980s.
"They came up to my office, I introduced myself to Will, and later he took off to go play basketball," said Bradley, who visited Citizens Bank Park before Tuesday's game.
"I remember Max saying that all that the kid wanted to do was play basketball. But he also said that, at some point, he might want to [play baseball]."
Venable eventually did give baseball a whirl after his sophomore year, though his initial hitting session with Bradley started out slowly.
"We went to the cages, and he's got a nice, relaxed way about him," Bradley said. "The first five pitches, he swung and missed. Will was giggling, saying 'I'm a little rusty.'
"The next five he fouled off and said he was getting closer. The next five looked like he'd been swinging his whole life. He had this nice, easy, relaxed swing we work on teaching our guys. It took him 10 swings to catch up."
Bradley, the head coach at Princeton since 1998, stopped by to visit Venable before Wednesday's game.
He said he watches every Padres game, either live or on tape. He's enjoying watching Venable's breakout season, as he entered Wednesday with career bests in hits (115) and home runs (21) and had tied his career best in RBIs with 51.
"I'm glad to see people appreciate Will as a person," Bradley said. "The way he plays, interacts with his teammates, it's great. As good a player as he is, he's an even better person."