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Tweak has healthy Erlin thriving in Fall League

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tendinitis in his left elbow caused Padres pitching prospect Robbie Erlin to miss three months of the 2012 season, so it only makes sense that the left-hander is in a hurry to make up for lost time.

Erlin, who turned 22 on Oct. 8 and is ranked by as the No. 8 prospect in San Diego's farm system, may have found a way to get there quicker.

Erlin spent the latter part of this past season working on speeding up his mechanics and his delivery, and he has continued to do so pitching for the Peoria Javelinas during the Arizona Fall League.

In four starts spanning 10 2/3 innings, Erlin is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA, though three of the five earned runs he's allowed came in his last start, on Tuesday. The statistics aren't as important as the status of Erlin's elbow, which hasn't caused him any trouble since this past season.

Better still, the quicker delivery has given Erlin another weapon to combat hitters -- something that he will continue to develop when he reports with pitchers and catchers to Peoria for the start of Spring Training in February.

"When I had a slow tempo, hitters had a lot more time to get comfortable in the box; they had so much time to sit there and get their timing down," Erlin said. "When I was faster, my fastball is a little more deceptive and it could make them jump more at my offspeed pitches.

"It was a huge difference. I saw guys swinging through my changeup and curveball my first time back on the mount. I like the fast tempo. I like to work fast."

For a stretch of 2012, Erlin just wanted to work -- period.

After being sidelined for part of Spring Training with a strained left oblique, Erlin reported to San Antonio, the Padres' Double-A affiliate, healthy and ready to pitch in April. The left-hander made seven starts in April and May, going 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.

But during a routine bullpen session, Erlin felt something in his elbow. That something turned out to be tendinitis, with a stretch in the ligament accompanied by inflammation.

"It didn't feel right, so they shut me down for four or five days," Erlin said. "When that didn't help, they decided to shut me down again until I could pass a stress test. That took three weeks. It then took me about two months to build up my strength again."

Erlin made three rehabilitation appearances for the Padres' Arizona League team and then headed back to San Antonio, where he finished strong, going 1-0 with a 3.37 ERA in 18 2/3 innings.

"It was disappointing because it was the first time I've ever been injured," Erlin said. "It was a grind for me mentally, but I learned a lot from it. And being around the pitching staff and [pitching coach] Tim Worrell was good. Once I got back on the mound, I felt like I picked up where I left off."

That's the opinion held by the organization as well.

"He looked good at the end of the regular season and has during the Fall League," said Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting. "I think that he's ready to close the book on any health concerns."

Erlin was obtained from the Rangers along with right-hander Joe Wieland in the non-waiver Trade Deadline deal of 2011 that sent reliever Mike Adams to Texas. The Padres liked Erlin's command, how he avoids walks (50 over 327 career innings) and his maturity.

"He's not far away from contributing," Smith said.

San Diego Padres, Robbie Erlin