When Tim Stauffer found out he was being sent to Triple-A Tucson, the first person he thought about was his 10-month-old son, Noah.

If Noah is one day put in a similar situation, how would dad want son to handle it?

"I'd want him to give 100 percent - not 70 percent," Stauffer said. "And when he comes to watch me pitch this year, I want him to see me give 100 percent and not 70."

Stauffer, 30, will get the ball tonight for the Tucson Padres when they open their season at Salt Lake City.

It will be a change of scenery for the veteran right-hander, who has made 70 starts in the major leagues and was San Diego's opening day starter in 2011.

"I could sit around and sulk and say this should have happened or that should have happened, but that's not going to do anybody any good," Stauffer said. "I don't want other guys to see that. It's just not a good example to set."

For Stauffer, it wasn't a major surprise when San Diego manager Bud Black told him he was going to Tucson.

Stauffer had right elbow surgery in August and didn't pick up a baseball for four months. He was a free agent in the offseason and chose to sign a minor-league contract with the Padres, the team that drafted him in 2003.

The longest-tenured player in the organization, Stauffer said he entertained offers from other teams but none "were that exciting."

So he went back to what he knew. His goal was to prove he was healthy and still effective this spring and find a way onto the Padres major-league roster.

Though it didn't work out, Stauffer is hopeful that he hasn't pitched his final game in the big leagues.

"We want him to worry about himself and get himself back to that spot," Tucson manager Pat Murphy said. "Obviously he's not quite there coming off an injury, but we're excited about him."

Stauffer is the oldest pitcher on the roster and second-oldest player overall. His mission while he's in Tucson is to be a mentor to some of the younger arms.

It's a role he doesn't take lightly.

"It doesn't seem like long ago that I was one of the younger guys," Stauffer said. "So I can relate to what they are going through. Minor-league baseball is tough with the travel and being away.

"The experience of coming through it and knowing the final goal is something I can pass on."

Left-hander Robbie Erlin, who will start Saturday's game, has spent two spring trainings with Stauffer and is eager to learn from him again this season.

"He's such a great resource," Erlin said. "I want to pick his brain and try to learn as much as I can and take some of those ideas and concepts into games and try them out.

"He's very approachable and a very nice guy."

It would be easy for Stauffer to be bitter.

Stauffer missed extended time in 2010 with appendicitis and was sidelined for the entire 2008 season after shoulder surgery.

He knows all about working up from the bottom and working through pain.

His most recent rehabilitation has been no different.

"There are bad days and good days," Stauffer said. "Good days, you get that little extra jolt, that little extra pep in your step. Then you have a day when you're not feeling that good, and it's harder to go out there and give it your all when you feel like you're playing at 50 percent."

Chances are he won't be at 50 percent when he toes the rubber tonight in Salt Lake City. Getting an opening day start at any level is an honor.

"You get that little extra jolt of adrenaline," Stauffer said. "Just putting on the uniform and playing a real game after such a long spring training will be great.

"It's going to be a lot of fun to get out there."


• What: Tucson at Salt Lake

• When: 5:35 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk