Erlin, Rea on track to rejoin Padres in spring

Both returning from TJ surgery, likely to be in rotation mix

Erlin, Rea on track to rejoin Padres in spring

SAN DIEGO -- Even before they make any trades or free-agent signings, the Padres hope to add two pitchers to their rotation mix next spring.

Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, each coming off 2016 Tommy John surgery, joined the club at Petco Park this weekend. The Padres are optimistic that both will be ready for camp next spring. Erlin could return as soon as next month and pitch in the instructional league.

"That rehab process is very long," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's got to feel interminable to those guys to grind and get back and how hard it is to fight back from that injury. We're excited about where they are in the process."

Where are they exactly? Erlin recently faced live hitters for the first time since his surgery last May. He threw live batting practice Friday and is beginning an every-five-days progression where he alternates bullpen sessions and live BP.

"Honestly, it's super simplistic, but I've just been working toward being healthy, whenever that is," Erlin said. "I haven't really tried to put a timeline on it, or looked into the future. It's pretty much: Do what you have to do right now to get through all these progressions and be healthy."

In four seasons with the Padres, Erlin has a 4.54 ERA over 30 appearances. Rea, meanwhile, owns a 4.69 mark in 26 games.

Rea, 27, had his surgery in November, so he's a bit behind Erlin, 26, in his recovery. Still, Rea is progressing quickly, given the typical timeline. He's approaching his fifth bullpen session and will continue to throw until mid-October.

After that, Rea will shut things down for six weeks -- much like he normally does at the start of the offseason. When he resumes throwing, he expects to be on his normal progression for the start of camp.

"It's been tough," Rea said. "I enjoy watching the games though. It's been fun to watch them, but it's tough not being able to contribute to the team. But things have gone really smoothly for me, so that makes it a lot better."

The Padres could have an entire rotation's worth of pitchers returning from the disabled list next spring. Along with Erlin and Rea, Matt Strahm (left knee), Christian Friedrich (left elbow) and Jarred Cosart (right elbow) are expected back by the start of camp.

Erlin and Rea, when healthy, appear to be favorites among that group for spots at the back end of the starting five.

"They'll definitely been in the mix for rotation spots," Green said of Rea and Erlin. "They're guys we've thought highly of for some time now. ... There's going to be some real competition for spots, and if you want to bring the best out in people, you have competition.

"We didn't really have that this year with as much attrition as we had through injury. Instead of competition for those spots, it was almost won by default. So it'll be nice to have a large contingent of guys coming in fighting for a job."

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.