Big effort keeps Erlin thinking big league thoughts

Left-hander throttles Phillies, but injured Padres pitchers back soon

Big effort keeps Erlin thinking big league thoughts

PHILADELPHIA -- Robbie Erlin isn't getting ahead of himself. He's focused solely on the task at hand, which, Tuesday night, was a matchup against the Phillies on a chilly April night.

In the short term, Erlin has looked very sharp. He allowed just one run and three hits over six innings in the Padres' 3-0 loss on Tuesday. Meanwhile, in the long-term, Erlin could very well be pitching his way into a more solidified starting job.

The 25-year-old southpaw did not make the Padres' Opening Day roster, but he was recalled on Friday and took over a rotation spot when Tyson Ross was placed on the disabled list. Both Ross and Brandon Morrow could return from their shoulder injuries by the end of the month, leaving Erlin's status in question.

"I don't want to look at it that way, and I don't want him to look at it that way," said Padres manager Andy Green. "What he's doing right now is focusing on the here and now. ... He did a tremendous job today. The best thing he can do is look forward to his next start."

Erlin's staple so far this season has been efficiency. He needed just 41 pitches to record 11 relief outs on Friday against the Rockies, before throwing 80 over six innings on Tuesday.

He's consistently worked ahead in the count, and on Tuesday, he threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 21 hitters, including 11 straight at one point.

"You always want to start off, be the aggressor per se -- work ahead, stay ahead," Erlin said. "When you can do that, it makes things a little bit easier."

Erlin was brilliant over the first five innings. He faced the minimum through 14 hitters, erasing two walks by inducing inning-ending double plays. Freddy Galvis' two-out single in the fifth proved to be harmless as well.

Padres turn two on rundown

But Erlin ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing a leadoff single to Tyler Goeddel before Odubel Herrera turned on a low changeup and deposited it into the right-field corner for a two-out RBI triple.

"I think I should've been a little bit more aggressive with the fastball, but hindsight is 20-20," Erlin said. "He did a nice job, stayed back and went down and got it."

That mistake -- if it was even a mistake, considering the impressive swing Herrera needed to hit it -- was arguably the only one Erlin made on the night. He picked up the tough-luck loss anyway, after the game situation called for him to be pinch-hit for in the top of the seventh.

"He fought really well and was borderline dominant," Green said. "You hate to have to lift him in that situation. But we didn't have a lot of opportunities to score tonight, and that was the best chance we had and we took our shot at it."

Erlin finished last season by allowing two earned runs on seven hits in his final two starts. He's started this year in similar style, having allowed just one run over 9 2/3 innings.

What's been the biggest difference for the young southpaw, who entered that stretch with a 4.84 ERA?

"I'm just mixing everything, trying to get consistent," Erlin said. "That's really it. It's been more of a mindset than physically doing anything different."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.