PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego's Petco Park always has been a pitchers' park, and despite the recent decision to move its fences in, it will continue to be.
Either way is fine with Robbie Erlin. He always has been a control-type pitcher.
The 22-year-old left-hander looks forward to the day when he can stand on the rubber and actually pitch there for the Padres. He hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
Will it be in 2014? Probably. How about 2013? That is harder to answer. A definite maybe. If he continues to make progress at his current rate, anything is possible.
Erlin has become one of the Arizona Fall League's top men on the mound. Working for the Peoria Javelinas, he has been selected as the circuit's Pitcher of the Week for Week 5.
He had two starts last week, going 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 12 strikeouts over eight innings. He also had a WHIP of 1.13.
For the fall season, Erlin is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA over 18 2/3 innings in six AFL starts. He finished the week tied for the league lead with 25 strikeouts, ranked second with 12.05 strikeouts per nine innings and having walked only five batters.
All of this has taken place after Erlin missed about 2 1/2 months of the 2012 season with elbow and oblique injuries. He was 0-2 with a 2.16 ERA in three Arizona Rookie League starts, then went 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A San Antonio.
"The elbow has felt good for a few months now. I haven't had any problems while I've been out here," he said Monday as the Fall League entered its final week.
"When we looked at the MRI and it showed no structural damage, it was a big relief. There was some inflammation and the ligament was stretched a little, but there was no tear. So I was able to come back with rest and rehab."
He admitted he was a bit anxious to get back on the mound but knew patience was required.
Erlin has an 18-10 career Minor League record with a 2.64 ERA in 56 starts. Some of those numbers were in the Texas Rangers organization. In July of 2011, he was traded to the Padres for pitcher Mike Adams.
Erlin has been working on a couple of things in the AFL. First, he is continuing to develop a faster delivery, although not too fast. He started that process during the summer. And second, he has moved to the middle of the rubber after primarily using the third-base side.
"That was a bit of an adjustment," he said. "It might not seem like much, but the angle is different and the catcher is in a different spot from what you're used to. As far as the faster delivery goes, I need to make it more consistent. For a while, it was fast, then slow, fast and slow, not real consistent. But I have become a lot better."
Erlin, who was born in Oakland and resides in Santa Cruz, Calif., has one more scheduled start.
It could be Thursday, but it also could be pushed back to Saturday if Peoria -- a half-game up on Scottsdale with three to play -- makes the AFL championship game.
"I need to improve on the execution of my pitches. I want to execute every pitch," he said. "But you also don't want to try to do too much and start leaving the ball up."
He refers to the approach of "Aim small, miss small." The words were made popular in the Revolutionary War film The Patriot when young men were being taught how to use a gun. If you aim at a man in general -- aim big -- you will miss big, miss him altogether. If you aim small -- at his button -- and miss, you will still hit the man.
"If I'm in a 1-0 count, I'm going to do everything to get it back to 1-1. If it's 2-1, I'll try to get it back to 2-2. I'd rather give up a hit than a walk," Erlin said.
Seems like a good approach, particularly when you hope to pitch in Petco Park. Control is the key.