Erlin needs Tommy John surgery

Erlin needs Tommy John surgery

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' worst fears regarding left-hander Robbie Erlin were realized on Tuesday, when an MRI exam on his left elbow revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. Erlin will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the 2016 season, along with, most likely, the start of '17.

The 25-year-old southpaw had experienced elbow trouble in the past. He missed four months in 2014 with a similar injury that did not require surgery. But this MRI exam showed a "substantial tear," according to Padres manager Andy Green. At that point, the ball was in Erlin's court.

"They left it completely up to me, whether we wanted to try to rehab it or have surgery," Erlin said. "And after talking with everybody, the trainers and physical therapists and doctors, it was pretty apparent that rehab might not do it this time."

Erlin had posted a 4.02 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this season. He looked sharp in his first two outings before seeing a significant drop in velocity in his last start, April 17 against Arizona.

That alerted the Padres that something was wrong, and they placed Erlin on the disabled list.

"You hate to lose Robbie like that, from just a human perspective," said Green. "The guy has invested his life into being a Major League pitcher. He's here, he was throwing the ball very well, and then you have something like this happen."

Erlin also missed time with Double-A San Antonio in 2012 because of left elbow tendinitis. With surgery on the horizon, Erlin is eager to put his history of arm trouble in the past.

"It's been the thing that's put me on the DL every time," Erlin said. "I guess, to try and find a positive, get it fixed for good and move forward, be able to pitch in the future without having any of those thoughts in the back of my head."

Erlin hasn't yet decided on a doctor or a date for the surgery, but he's doing his research, calling other players who have gone through it and studying up on the rehab process.

For Erlin, who was understandably shaken by the news, it came as a bit of a surprise. Initially, he had hoped to return immediately after the minimum stay on the DL -- which, coincidentally, would have been Tuesday.

"I didn't think it would be this extreme, but the picture showed that it was," Erlin said. "I guess all you can do is look forward and be thankful to get it fixed for good."

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