MadFriars' Interview: Robbie Erlin

SAN ANTONIO -- Coming into the season the San Diego Padres minor league system was one of the top ranked in baseball and a big reason for this acclaim was on the backs of three near major league ready pitchers Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.

As with many things for the Padres this season all has not gone as planned. After a great spring and two strong starts Kelly was shelved with a tender elbow. Wieland made five starts in San Diego before going down leaving Erlin as the last man standing in May.

And then Robbie went down.

While Wieland's injury appears to be more serious with his move to the 60-day disabled list the good news is the injuries to Kelly and Erlin seem much more on the precautionary side.

When he's on the mound Erlin, 22, a third round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2009, has a game that is built for PETCO with his ability to pound the zone and not allow the ball to go over the fence.

This year with San Antonio he has been effective in limited innings with a 2.67 ERA in seven starts and a 45/10 K/BB ratio.

We caught up with Robbie earlier in the month to find out when he will be back out on the rubber.

You were hurt a little bit in spring training and it has seemed to carry over to here. What have you been dealing with?

Robbie Erlin: A little bit of elbow tendonitis. In spring training I had a strained oblique. I broke camp and I was fine; mainly just limited to two or three innings at a time until I built up my arm.

I worked my way up each outing. Right now I just have a slight discomfort in my elbow.

That must really get your attention anytime something is wrong in the elbow. Your mind has to start racing to the worst possible things.

Robbie Erlin: Oh yeah definitely. I went through this before spring training two years ago before spring training and it is very much a mind game.

You have to come to a point where you have to trust it. You know you've done the rehab and go out and pitch.

How do you rehab something that is a twinge?

Robbie Erlin: Its mainly just rest. You have to let the muscle rest and get back to normal. Also you can strengthen the muscles around it which I am doing as well as maintaing the shoulder exercises which I am doing.

It didn't bother you that much in May because you put up some pretty good numbers.

Robbie Erlin: It was one of those things that I felt when I was warming up but once I got into the game I wouldn't feel it at all. That is kind of why we think its tendentious because when the muscle gets warmed up and lubricated it doesn't bother me at all.

It was one of those things where its better to be cautious than take the chance.

It has to help some that you have been through this before. How far away are you?

Robbie Erlin: I think I have a few more weeks of playing catch and building up the distance. Then we'll pick up the intensity of the throwing.

As far as getting up on the mound in a game at this point I couldn't really tell you.

Can you give us an idea of what you throw and top out at?

Robbie Erlin: I'm pretty consistent around 92 to 93 with my fastball and keep the ball down in the zone. The majority of them are four-seamers but I'm starting to throw the two-seamer more.

The two-seamer has a little more movement and is going to help me get the mis hit off of the barrel to get that ground ball. Its a good pitch to throw in a hitter's count or early.

I also throw a slider and curve.

To me the two-seamer always seems to be a tough pitch because you are never sure exactly where it is going.

Robbie Erlin: Right now, yeah that is the case with me. Which is why I am still really working on it. [laughs] I want to get that feel so I can locate it as I do with my four-seamer.

When I look at your numbers its always interesting that you have a great strikeout to base-on-balls ratio and a very good ERA. The only negative is you tend to allow a few more hits per inning than your other statistics indicate. The unusual thing about it is that the hits don't seem to do any damage.

Robbie Erlin: That is part of pitching you are going to give up hits. At this level hitters don't miss mistakes much. For me that is a direct way to evaluate myself, their hits are my mistakes. Right now I'm not in mid-season shape or where I really want to be.

Once the hitter gets on base its my job to limit it and pitch to the situation; whether its trying to get a ground ball or a strikeout. Its just what I've been trying to do is to execute the next pitch.

With runners in scoring position its amazing how low the numbers are. To use a very tired cliche, you seem to "bear down."

Robbie Erlin: [laughs] Yeah, well its my fault that they got there. Its something to work on always just throwing quality pitches.

What are the biggest things you were working on going into this year?

Robbie Erlin: I really wanted to get my slider a little tighter and the two-seamer a little better. I worked with the coaches in the Rangers organization and Jimmie Jones [the Missions pitching coach at the beginning of the year and now the Padres' bullpen coach] was open to me throwing it and keep developing it so I had a fourth pitch.

The other one was being healthy and that hasn't gone so well.

Do you worry that when you throw both the curve and the slider that they can start blending into one?

Robbie Erlin: Yeah. Actually when I first started throwing my slider the first inclination was to grip it like a curve. I was scarred of the pitches meshing and now I have a completely different grip with both which has helped me.

Its also a different release on both pitches so I'm pretty confident that they will be two different pitches.

The goal is always to throw all pitches for strikes at any time in any count.

So hopefully we will see you back sometime after the All-Star break.

Robbie Erlin: That is the goal.

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