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2013 Outlook: Groundball outs should aid Stluts well

The Padres could use a break heading into Thursday's series finale with the Mets.

Not only have they had to adjust to the cold New York weather in their second straight loss, 8-4, on Wednesday night, but they also had to sweat through a scorching performance by Matt Harvey.

Even Mets Manager Terry Collins was taken aback at the young starter's command.

"It was an unbelievable game," Collins said. "You walk in that weather and grab the ball and it feels like a cue ball."

Eric Stults could be just the starter the Padres need to warm themselves up.

Stults will make his first start as the Padres look to avoid the sweep on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field. Captain America David Wright and company will have to watch out as Stults will likely try to work them inside per his Spring Training adjustments for right-handed hitters.

"That was something I wanted to do, and it's something I put an emphasis on, trying to pound that part of the plate," Stults said. "That last start [March 30 in San Antonio against the Rangers] was the first outing where I was consistently able to do that. It's always been something I've needed to do to keep guys honest. It's more picking a time when to do it."

Stults turned heads last season -- blazing through almost 100 innings with the Padres with a career-best eight wins and a 2.91 ERA. Manager Bud Black might usually have had Stults in the fourth spot, but might be trying to round him into shape sooner at Citi Field instead of at Coors Field the next day. Stults was 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA through six Spring Training starts.

Stults will match up against the Mets' Dillon Gee, who hopes to return to stellar form after surgery cut his season short in 2012. The Texas native was on a career-best pace through 17 starts last year, posting a 4.10 ERA and almost 100 strikeouts.

The Padres will have their work cut out for them if Gee rounds back into shape after his slow Spring Training. Gee is 2-0 against San Diego and has allowed just one home run with a 1.32 ERA through 30 at bats.

Padres: Stults vs. Mets
Stults earned his first Major League victory in his first start against the Mets at Shea Stadium for the Dodgers. Stults is 2-1 all time against the Mets and controlled them well in his first Citi Field appearance last year -- notching the win after allowing one unearned run through five innings.

Mets: Laffey may be on deck
With Shaun Marcum dealing with a neck injury, the Mets are planning on left-hander Aaron Laffey as their first option to step into the rotation. With Marcum "very unlikely" to come back beforehand, Collins hopes the left-hander will be able to step up.

"Hopefully he comes in Sunday and pitches very well," Collins said. "If he does, he'll most likely get another start. But we're going to take it one start at a time right now."

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