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Stauffer works hard for 'Breakfast Club'

SAN DIEGO -- It's referred to in these parts as the "Breakfast Club," but there isn't a single doughnut to be found anywhere inside the home training room at Petco Park.

The menu that physical therapist Rick Stauffer wades through each morning sees him wrapping his hands around more surgically-repaired elbows and shoulders than any sugary goody.

It's just past nine in the morning, and the rest of the team and training staff won't make their way through the clubhouse doors for hours. Stauffer is busy working on the walking wounded -- players on the disabled list, baseball's version of purgatory.

The list of the Padres' injured players is too exhaustive to recite, but there's been 19 disabled list moves since the beginning of the season and there are currently six starting pitchers on the shelf. The team has had to turn outside the organization for help more than it has liked.

"Maybe more than I have ever dealt with," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said.

A dearth of available hands and training tables essentially forced the Padres to start a morning routine for players on the disabled list. This way, they can get the full amount of rehabilitation work, without getting in the way of healthy players who receive their treatment before games.

"There are only so many tables and so much time to go around," Stauffer said. "We didn't just want a stretch-and-go [routine]. We wanted to give them the dedicated time that they need."

That's where the idea of the "Breakfast Club" was born. However, it was manager Bud Black who attached the catchy and only slightly-corny moniker to the daily routine for players who report to Petco Park. They are there for as many as six days a week for a practice that is anything but fun or frivolous.

It's proved vital for the physical and even mental well-being of these players.

"He's sort of our emotional therapist, too," pitcher Dustin Moseley said of Stauffer.

Stauffer arrives at the ballpark early each day, whether the team is playing at home or on the road. If the team is playing at home, it's the beginning of what could be a 14-hour day, as Stauffer works straight through his "Breakfast Club" guys to the ones who will play in the game that night.

On days when the Padres are on the road, the day is much shorter for Stauffer and players like pitchers Moseley, Cory Luebke and outfielder Kyle Blanks, the three players who arrived early on a Friday in July to continue their rehabilitation from their respective season-ending surgeries this spring.

The games have ended for these three players, but this is anything but down time. Players who take part in the "Breakfast Club" are actually in a constant state of motion for the four or so hours they're at Petco Park each day. They start with work on the table with Stauffer, and on this day, there is also an exhausting yoga session Moseley has managed to talk Luebke into.

"Right now, their competition is within themselves. But I know these guys are working their tails off to get back," Stauffer said.

The first player to land on the training table is Blanks. Stauffer begins to work on the surgically-repaired labrum in Blanks' left shoulder. Blanks, nearly three months removed from his surgery, appears to be in a good mood. He talks about a contest he has with Moseley to see who can grow their hair the longest.

Blanks, who once boasted a big afro that his hat could barely contain -- think Oscar Gamble -- appears to be on his way to doing the same again. Moseley got tired of the short curls that had grown far too long for his liking and got a haircut. This makes Blanks smile.

It feels good to smile again, not just for Blanks but for other players who are now months removed from season-ending surgery. Blanks had his surgery on April 24. The following day, Moseley had a torn capsule and the labrum in his right shoulder fixed. Luebke had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in May.

Each player has their own way of coping with these injuries and the subsequent feeling of detachment from teammates that follows. The games go on without them, and they're left in the lurch in that initial period after surgery and before they start rehab.

"You know what to expect, but it doesn't get any easier. When you're sitting on the couch, seconds slow down. And when you wake up each day, it's like you are just fighting going asleep just to pass the time," Blanks said.

Luebke, who had his first major surgery of any kind in May, admitted to feeling somewhat lost shortly after he was told he would need Tommy John surgery.

"Just knowing you're not going to be a part of it. Knowing you get that satisfaction of bringing home the win and [being] with everyone [who's] celebrating after a win ... to know you won't be a part of that is frustrating," Luebke said.

But there is some solace for a guy like Luebke, knowing that he's not going through this alone. All he has to do is look around the clubhouse. There's Moseley, his yoga partner, preparing to get treatment. Two lockers down, Blanks is doing the same. On other days, it's other players.

"It helps having guys to talk to, guys who are in the same situation as you or worse," Luebke said.

San Diego Padres, Kyle Blanks, Cory Luebke, Dustin Moseley