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Important starts for Erlin, Kelly

Notes on Spangenberg, Gyorko, Kimbrel

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Auditions have begun for the 2016 Padres.

That's why you're seeing Jedd Gyorko at shortstop and Wil Myers at first base.

And that's why right-hander Casey Kelly started last Friday night against Arizona at Petco Park and why left-hander Robbie Erlin started Saturday -- and why you'll see the pair next weekend against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Before general manager A.J. Preller can decide what the Padres need moving forward, he has to know what they have now.

Is Myers the answer at first? Is Gyorko a legitimate shortstop? Can Kelly, who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Erlin be part of a Major League rotation, or part of the extended rotation at Triple-A El Paso?

Late-season cameos likely won't provide the total answer. What we saw late last season from Alexi Amarista at shortstop didn't hold up under the pressure of a full season.

But what happens in the final month might serve as an indication.

Certainly, the Padres can determine the potential of Erlin in three starts or Kelly in two, especially because of their Minor League campaigns.

Erlin, 24, started 20 games for the Padres in 2013-14 with a 4.58 ERA. He was 7-6 with a 5.60 ERA in 24 starts at El Paso this season. He started slow and missed a month with a shoulder issue but finished strong, throwing a shutout in his last start.

Erlin was at his best Saturday night, shutting Arizona out on two hits over seven innings, going 5 2/3 innings before allowing the first hit. His ERA fell from 21.00 to 6.30 Saturday night, because in his first start at Colorado he allowed seven runs on nine hits in three innings.

Erlin's seven-inning outing was his longest since May 6, 2014. Before Saturday night, the last left-handed Padres starter to allow only two hits over seven or more scoreless innings was Cory Luebke on April 21, 2012.

The Padres pretty much know what they have in Erlin.

Kelly, 25, poses a bigger question.

Last Friday night was his first Major League start since the end of the 2012 season. Kelly had Tommy John surgery during the spring of 2013 and has been on the mend ever since. He was 2-10 between Double-A San Antonio and El Paso this season with a combined 5.16 ERA.

At the moment, Kelly probably has more upside than Erlin. But the questions facing him are also larger. The Padres have to make decisions on both this winter.


• Third baseman Cory Spangenberg was 4-for-7 with two doubles, two runs scored and a game-tying RBI in two games over the weekend. He matched his career high of three hits Saturday night. Spangenberg hit .372 (16-for-43) in 15 games against the Diamondbacks this season.

• Gyorko Saturday night became the 27th player in Padres history to hit two sacrifice flies in a game. Gyorko has five sacrifice flies on the season, all in the last nine weeks.

• Closer Craig Kimbrel's 38th save Saturday night was only his second in four opportunities this month. He has only three saves since Aug. 19.

Justin Upton's RBI double Saturday night snapped an 0-for-16 streak and was his only hit in his last six games (1-for-21). The drought has dropped his batting average eight point to .251.

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