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Under the Texas Rangers' current developmental staff, no high school product had been assigned to a full-season club directly out of his first Spring Training––until left-hander Robbie Erlin did so this year.
In 2008, the Rangers kept Blake Beavan in Extended Spring Training for the first month of the season before sending him to their Low-A club, where he made his official debut on April 29. The team did the same with fourth-round selection Joe Wieland last year, as he made his first start on May 18.
Coming into camp, Erlin imagined that even in the best-case scenario, he'd probably be spending some extra time in Arizona.
Needless to say, he was surprised on the day rosters were announced.
"I figured I would stay in extended," said Erlin. "I just kind of figured, since I came out of high school, that they'd want to keep my innings down. I was very surprised."
But the 6-foot-0, 190-pound prospect impressed the Rangers both on and off the field throughout camp.
Erlin, who says he threw in four Spring Training games, was excellent on the mound. He displayed advanced command of an upper-80s, low-90s fastball and a potentially plus curveball that helped him record nine strikeouts in just four innings with the rookie-level AZL Rangers late last summer.
Perhaps more significantly, the 19-year-old displayed well beyond-his-years maturity on the mound and between his ears.
Despite being less than a year removed from Scotts Valley High School in the Santa Cruz area, Erlin carried himself like a professional who never seemed rattled on the mound, regardless of the situation.
Because of his maturity both physically and mentally, the Rangers felt Erlin was prepared for a full-season assignment straight out of Spring Training.
And they appear to be correct.
In 9.1 innings with the Crawdads this month, Erlin has surrendered one run on four hits, walking one and striking out seven. He fanned five of the six batters he faced during his season debut on April 10.
"I think it's going pretty well," said Erlin of his season. "There are some areas that I think I need to improve on as far as first-pitch strikes and throwing certain pitches in certain situations. I'm really developing that part of my game––reading hitters and that sort of stuff."
Erlin's first three professional experiences––Arizona Rookie League, Fall Instructional League, and Spring Training––were all at the club's facility in Surprise. For him, it's just nice to be playing outside of a complex league.
"We have a great team and everybody on the team is really cool and really focused," he said. "I like it a lot. The coaching staff is great, also. They're real fun to work with and very helpful all around. I really like it."
The third-round pick has spent most of his time working with Hickory pitching coach Brad Holman, who is in his second season with the Rangers organization.
Through Holman's guidance, Erlin is focusing on commanding his stuff––something he seems to be doing well thus far.
"I'm trying to command the baseball in the strike zone and outside the strike zone," he said. "For example, if there's a runner on first and you need a double play ball, you want to know what pitches will get you ground balls. You also want to keep the ball down in the zone. That's what I'm working on."
The California native is part of a loaded Crawdads pitching staff that includes nine pitchers ranked among the organization's top 50 prospects. Erlin says he has been able to learn quite a bit from his talented peers.
"Everybody has such a solid work ethic," he said. "It's a good environment to be in, and you can learn a lot from watching the pitchers throw. You can see how they attack hitters. It's just helpful and fun being around these guys. They're all very good pitchers."
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Erlin showing maturity with Hickory
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