SAN DIEGO -- In a season that's seen the Padres use 13 different starting pitchers due to an improbable accumulation of injuries, only two pitchers, Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard, have made every one of their scheduled first-half starts.
Richard, in particular, has been a model of durability: his 119 2/3 innings pitched are the seventh most in the Majors so far this year, and his 18 starts are tied for the league's second-highest total. Volquez has also started 18 games.
"There's nothing more valuable to a team than your best five starting pitchers making every turn from April first," manager Bud Black said. "Clayton was projected to be one of those five. ... He's held up his side of the bargain. The durability factor is essential to a team's success."
Making the southpaw's stamina so far this year all the more impressive is the fact that Richard missed most of the second half of last season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.
"When you're coming back from surgery ... you might not come back equally as proficient as you were when you left," Black said. "Through spring training until now, I think we've seen a gradual progression of his stuff: More life on the ball, more consistency in his secondary pitches."
The 29-year-old Richard certainly seems to be suffering no lingering effects, something that is largely the result of his extensive workout regimen. The former University of Michigan quarterback maintains a thorough between-start routine to ensure that his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame is primed for each and every start.
"He's a great worker," Black said. "You cannot deny Clayton's tremendous work ethic. His everyday work between starts is as good as any pitcher I've ever seen."
Richard is 6-9 this year with a 3.91 ERA. Despite yielding six runs in six-plus innings in his last outing Saturday, he has put together an impressive first-half resume that includes eleven quality starts. As for Volquez, he also has 11 quality starts and is 5-7 with a 3.52 ERA.
Wells pinch runs for first time in nine years
SAN DIEGO -- When pitcher Kip Wells came on to run for first baseman Yonder Alonso in the midst of the Padres' eighth-inning rally Saturday night against the Reds, it was the first time the starter had appeared as a pinch-runner since he was with the Pirates in 2003.
So while he wasn't in uncharted territory, Wells was well aware it had been quite a long time since he'd played that role.
"You didn't have to tell me it had been awhile," Wells said. "I was just like, man, just don't get picked off, don't run to the wrong base, don't not tag up when I'm supposed to."
Wells managed to do his job, a task made easier by the fact that he was moved base-to-base by a single and walk in that inning. That gave the 33-year-old ample time to catch up with some former teammates -- Wells made seven starts for the Reds in his last Major League stint in 2009.
"I got to go station-to-station, so I ended up going to each place and talking to Joey [Votto] and [Brandon] Phillips and [Todd] Frazier," Wells said.
One of the Reds was even friendly enough to remind the veteran of the importance of his role as the potential tying run.
"I was standing on first and Joey was like, 'You're actually kind of an important run...'," Wells said. "So I started thinking, if the guy hits a gapper right here and I'm going to have to try to score from first, then there's going to be a play at the plate. I'm going to have to wrap-around slide or something."
None of those scenarios came into play, as Wells was stranded at third by a Chris Denorfia fly ball to center.
"Fortunately I wasn't overexposed," Wells said. "I didn't get in the way, just kept the line moving."
Stauffer confident he'll return to mound this season
SAN DIEGO -- Pitcher Tim Stauffer, on the disabled list since May 15 with a strained right elbow, said that he's certain he'll pitch again this season.
"That's my every intention," he said.
Stauffer has been playing catch from 90 feet for the last week or so, a distance that he said will gradually increase over time.
"No problems so far," Stauffer said. "It's pretty basic so far. Hopefully, I will get stretched out, get on a mound and hopefully get in games sooner than later."
There's no timetable as to when Stauffer will appear in a game.
Stauffer was in line to start Opening Day until the final week of Spring Training when he first started to feel discomfort in his elbow. He started the season on the disabled list but was activated on May 14 in time for a start in Washington.
Stauffer experienced soreness in his elbow -- in his flexor tendon bundle -- late in that outing against the Nationals. He allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings in that game and eventually landed on the disabled list again on May 18, retroactive to May 15.
It was at that time when manager Bud Black said Stauffer was headed toward a "lengthy rest." But after two months of treatment, Stauffer is to the point where he's playing catch, the first step toward getting back on a mound.
"So far, so good," he said.
Manager Bud Black announced the first three pitchers of the second half for a series that begins Friday in Los Angeles -- Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis.
Black, several coaches and some players will fly from San Diego to Denver on Monday for a memorial service for bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on June 24. The service will be held Littleton, Co., Akerfelds' hometown.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.