When the Chicago White Sox designated pitcher Eric Stults for assignment on May 15, they probably figured no one would claim the left-handed pitcher, and he would stay in the White Sox organization by accepting an assignment to Triple-A Charlotte.
At the time, the 32-year-old pitcher went 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 5.4 SO/9 in 6.2 innings pitched with the South Siders.
Then came the injuries to Tim Stauffer and 3/5 of the Padres starting rotation. In a move that was probably made more out of desperation than for talent, the Padres came swooping in and claimed Stults off of waivers from the White Sox.
Padres general manager Josh Byrnes received good scouting reports on the soft-tossing left hander, but the truth was the Padres had no idea what they were actually getting with Stults.
All the Friars knew was they needed a starting pitcher, and at the time, needed one immediately.
Before joining the Padres, Stults was a journeyman with 63 games pitched over four years with four different teams: Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and White Sox.
Stults was a versatile pitcher that the Padres liked because he could be plugged into the rotation or be slotted as a long reliever in the bullpen.
“I’ve seen him in the bullpen; I’ve seen him start,” Padres manager Bud Black said on Padres.com. “He’s versatile.”
On May 19, the Indiana native made his Padres debut against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in which he allowed four hits, three walks and struck out two in 6 2/3 innings pitched, Stults did not factor in the decision but he made quite an impression.
Like most of the Padres starting staff, Stults was hit with the injury bug, when he strained his left lat muscle and placed on the 15-day disabled list June 6. But the injury didn’t affect the year he was having. At the time he was placed on the disabled list, Stults had gone 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts.
Stults was activated from the disabled list July 22, and didn’t miss a beat.
The veteran finished the year strong pitching to an 8-3 record with a 2.91 ERA in 20 games (15 starts).
Players from other teams have even raved about Stults. The Atlanta Braves star third baseman recalls when he faced Stults.
“I saw a lot of weak ground balls and weak fly balls, to be honest with you,” future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones said on Padres.com “Everybody came back saying the same thing, ‘Just missed it.’ At some point, how about somebody not missing it, you know?”
No one knew Stults was going to be this good, the Padres scouts deserve all the credit for finding a diamond in the rough.
Stults has just about secured a low-end rotation spot for 2013.