Erlin getting the job done

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Since reporting to Spring Training, left-hander Robbie Erlin has carried himself like a professional both on and off the field. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 19-year-old prospect for a Q&A session.

Left-hander Robbie Erlin has just four innings of official professional pitching experience, but he has done nothing but impress since signing with the Rangers as a third-round pick last summer.

After fanning nine batters in four innings with the AZL Rangers late last season, the 19-year-old performed well at Fall Instructional League. So far, in Spring Training, he has also pitched well. Not only is Erlin's stuff–including an upper-80s, low-90s fastball and a potentially plus curveball–advanced, but he carries himself more like a four-year collegiate veteran than a guy just out of high school.

Erlin goes about his business in a professional way both on and off the field, and he appears to be a fast learner. Although he will almost certainly begin the season at Extended Spring Training, he could conceivably reach Single-A Hickory before the end of the 2010 campaign.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the prospect after a recent day of Spring Training games.

Jason Cole: Tell me about your experiences from your first Spring Training. How is it going so far?

Robbie Erlin: It's going well. It's a lot like instructs in that we have workouts in the mornings and then just games during the day. There is a lot of instruction–going over defensive situations from a pitching standpoint. Making sure you're ready for everything. From that aspect, it is pretty much the same except with a larger group. It's maybe a little bit more detail oriented.

Cole: Obviously instructs helped prepare you for this experience at Spring Training. But were there any big surprises for you coming into this?

Erlin: Not really. I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it was going to be a lot of work getting ready for the full season. I came in ready for that. I guess in that aspect it's what I expected–a lot of conditioning, lifting, shoulder work and that kind of stuff. Then on the field, there is a lot of bullpens. I guess it's what I expected. It's a lot of work, but it has helped me improve my game and get ready for the season.

Cole: The running is something a lot of guys talk about, especially early in camp when they are trying to break you guys in. How was that for you?

Erlin: I did the offseason running program, and it prepared me a lot for this, so this doesn't seem as bad. But sometimes it's hard. Sometimes they'll let you have a pretty easy day if you've had a steady workload a few days prior. I don't think it's too bad because I prepared myself and followed the offseason running program.

Cole: Looking back at the way you were in high school, do you currently feel stronger and feel that your body is more prepared to go through a full season now?

Erlin: Definitely. Out of high school, I was 170 or 175 pounds. I came in here at about 192. I'm about high 180s or 190 right about now. I feel like there is a lot more behind it because it's going to take strain off my arm in the end.

Cole: Tell me about your game on the mound so far. You've gotten into a few games. How do you feel it is going?

Erlin: I feel it's going pretty well. I've been trying to throw strikes, and I've been able to do that pretty well. There are little things like the feel for my changeup–in both outings I've had so far, I've kind of left it up. I need to make sure I keep the same hand speed and that kind of stuff. If I can put those together, I think I'll be able to improve my outings and have more productive outings. I'm just going to try and focus on those. I'm taking what I can from each outing and trying to improve upon it.

Cole: Which team have you been working with so far?

Erlin: Hickory.

Cole: You went one inning in your first outing against the Mariners and then two in the exhibition against a Canadian travel team last week. Are they starting to stretch you out as a starting pitcher?

Erlin: Yeah, I think so. Being young, I'm going to have my innings monitored. I don't think I'll be extended or over-exerted, I guess you could say. But I think just one or two innings stints is where I'll be at by the time Spring Training is over. That's my guess.

Cole: When you're working with the pitching coaches this spring, are you focusing on mechanics at all or is it just the changeup for now?

Erlin: It's a lot of things. It's not just my changeup. I'm getting a feel for–early in the counts–throwing the ball over the plate instead of being picky with my fastball. Today I worked on some mechanical things just as far as my direction to the plate. Any misses–I'm trying to go up and down with instead of side-to-side because side-to-side misses usually aren't very effective. I've been working on that.

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