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Padres' Rea, Erlin take big step toward return

MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It was only a "B" game on a Peoria back field, played in front of a couple dozen spectators. But to Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, it meant a whole heck of a lot more.

Both Rea and Erlin had their 2016 seasons shut down because of elbow trouble, and both would later undergo Tommy John surgery. They missed the entirety of the '17 campaign.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- It was only a "B" game on a Peoria back field, played in front of a couple dozen spectators. But to Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, it meant a whole heck of a lot more.

Both Rea and Erlin had their 2016 seasons shut down because of elbow trouble, and both would later undergo Tommy John surgery. They missed the entirety of the '17 campaign.

View Full Game Coverage

And so Thursday marked the first time that Rea or Erlin had faced Major League hitters in their recovery processes. If they were rusty, it didn't show. Facing White Sox hitters, both pitchers tossed two scoreless innings, recording two strikeouts apiece.

"Nothing simulates being in a game," said Rea, who worked out of a first-and-third, none-out jam in the sixth. "I told myself to just be free and easy. I felt like my fastball was coming out well, and my timing was good. I just tried to ride that."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

So often linked by their 2016 surgeries, Rea and Erlin took similar roads back to the mound this spring. But there were a few differences. Most notably: Erlin finished his recovery late last season.

The Padres weren't about to rush Erlin back to the big league mound. Instead, they set him on a schedule that allowed him to pitch instructional league games in September and October before he was shut down for the offseason.

Video: Green on Asuaje's influence, return of Erlin and Rea

"A lot of guys blow through an offseason, throwing, and at some point the next season they get fatigued or their innings are limited or there's some sort of restriction," Erlin said. "The thought was to finish rehab last year, get a normal offseason and approach this year as a normal season."

Rea's story was a bit more complicated. The Padres dealt him to Miami in July 2016, but he was returned to San Diego in a separate deal after suffering a partially torn UCL. Rea didn't undergo Tommy John surgery until November, and Thursday marked his first time facing hitters.

Both Erlin and Rea are eyeing places in the rotation, which currently features eight pitchers battling for three spots. Erlin is out of options, and there's a chance the club would keep him as a relief option.

"They both have an opportunity to make the club, both have an opportunity to impact us for a long time," said Padres manager Andy Green. "They've put a ton of work in behind the scenes. ... They've both pushed incredibly hard. They're both wired right. It's good to see them back on a field fighting for a job."

Myers goes oppo

Wil Myers may have switched positions, but his opposite-field power remains intact. Now entrenched in right field, Myers launched his first homer of the spring, a solo shot in the first inning of the Padres' 9-9 Cactus League tie against Texas.

"It was a great swing from Wil," Green said. "That's where he spent most of his time in batting practice, so it's nice to see him succeed there."

Camp battles

Luis Perdomo is an early favorite for one of those three available rotation places. He made his first appearance of the spring, starting the "B" game against Chicago, and he was hit hard in the first inning. Perdomo surrendered three runs on four hits, as the inning was halted with just one out (a classic "B" game quirk). He bounced back in the second, needing only five pitches to retire the side.

Tyson Ross and Chris Young are also in the mix for the back-end-of-the-rotation places. Ross threw two scoreless frames against Texas, while Young allowed two runs on three hits over two innings.

Christian Villanueva mashed a third-inning grand slam, as he continues his push for a backup job in the infield. Villanueva entered camp as a tossup for a roster spot. He's now 7-for-14 with a pair of homers.

• Outfield candidate Franchy Cordero tripled in Thursday's "B" game, giving him five extra-base hits in the six games he's played this spring.

Injury updates

• Left-hander Matt Strahm, who underwent knee surgery last July, is nearing a return to game action. The Padres are still mulling whether to use him in the rotation or bullpen. Should they choose the latter, he'd almost certainly be ready for Opening Day. But if they decide to stretch him into a starter's role, it's likelier he'd need some time in the Minors.

Video: Strahm discusses creating winning culture with Padres

Carter Capps, who had October surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, threw a live batting-practice session Thursday, and Green noted the righty reliever could be "a couple days out" from pitching in a game. The Padres are hopeful Capps will be at full health by Opening Day.

Chase Headley made his spring debut after being held back a few days with a bruised right middle finger. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI single.

Up next

Bryan Mitchell starts Friday when the Padres host the Royals at 12:10 p.m. PT, live on MLB.TV. The right-hander, who came to San Diego in an offseason trade with the Yankees, tossed two scoreless frames in his debut last week. It's possible Friday's game serves as something of a reunion, too. Eric Hosmer could face his former team, though his status in Friday's lineup is uncertain.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Robbie Erlin, Colin Rea