Erlin showing confidence in changeup

Left-hander Robbie Erlin has been outstanding all season long, but he had his best outing as a pro on Sunday, pitching six no-hit innings with eight strikeouts at Single-A Hickory. Lone Star Dugout features the 19-year-old prospect.

This time last year, Robbie Erlin had just graduated from Scotts Valley HS in the Santa Cruz, Ca., area, and he hadn't yet signed his first professional contract.

Now, the 19-year-old is tearing through full-season ball at Single-A Hickory, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

Erlin posted the best outing of his young career on Sunday afternoon, hurling six no-hit, no-walk innings, striking out eight batters.

He retired the first 15 hitters he faced––fanning seven in a row at one point––before plunking a man to lead off the sixth. He finished the inning with three consecutive outs before giving way to his bullpen.

"I had all my pitches going," Erlin said. "Fastball command was the key. I read the hitters and made the proper adjustments based on what they were doing. I was using my common sense, as [pitching coach] Brad [Holman] would say."

Erlin's advanced mental approach to pitching is part of what allows him to succeed at the advanced level, despite his young age. The southpaw says even going back to high school, he was more than just a thrower.

"The mental side was a big part of my game in high school also," he said. "I knew I would have to use that in pro ball even more. I have improved those skills and made them more specific to hitters and situations.

"I've improved most in situational pitching. Like when to throw pitches in certain situations, how those pitches will affect the game, and how to develop pitch sequences to certain types of batters."

Following an excellent performance in Spring Training, Erlin turned heads by breaking camp with the Crawdads, and the overall results have been nothing short of phenomenal.

In 16 appearances [eight starts], Erlin is 3-1 with a 1.34 earned-run average. He has logged 60.1 innings, allowing 37 hits, walking 10, and striking out 62.

The dominant numbers recently earned him a spot in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, where he worked a 1-2-3 inning, getting one strikeout.

"That was a very cool experience," Erlin said of the All-Star Game. "It was fun to get to know other players from around the league. Everybody had a good time there and it was fun to play without any pressure."

Erlin's outstanding success this season comes due to his advanced nature in his all-around game.

While the hurler certainly excels in the mental aspect of the game, his three-pitch repertoire is also polished beyond his years.

Erlin isn't quite overpowering, but he throws strikes and nails his spots with all his pitches, including an 87-91 mph fastball, a mid-70s curveball, and a changeup.

Though he didn't throw many changeups in high school, the pitch has become a reliable asset that has allowed him to limit right-handed hitters to a .152 batting average this season.

"I didn't throw it too often in high school," he said. "It was the same pitch as it is now, but instead of getting swing-throughs, it would speed up the high school hitters' bats. And with the metal bats, bloopers would fall in, so I stuck to my fastball and curve more."

Using the same changeup grip that he used in high school, Erlin has developed so much confidence in the pitch that he says it just might be his go-to secondary offering now.

"It is coming along well," said Erlin of the change. "I have thrown my changeup more than my curveball, actually. I have confidence to throw it in any count and sometimes as a strikeout pitch, depending on who is hitting."

The 6-foot-0, 190-pound prospect threw 66 pitches in Sunday's start, and he's currently working with a pitch limit of 75. The Rangers are trying to protect Erlin's young arm in his first season of pro ball, and he says he's feeling just fine.

"My arm has held up well so far," he said. "It feels good most of the time, especially the day of two after I pitch, compared to when I was in high school at least. We have a good arm care program."

In eight outings since moving into the starting rotation, Erlin has surrendered one earned run or fewer six times. Despite the dominance, he still feels there is some room for improvement.

"I just want to consistently command all my pitches. I want to be able to throw any of them in any count."

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