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Erlin proving himself an early asset for Padres

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres feel they have a starting weapon in their bullpen. It's simply a matter of how and when they decide to use him.

Robbie Erlin has made two relief appearances this season in his return from May 2016 Tommy John surgery. In the first, he was excellent over three scoreless innings, before allowing two runs in the fourth. In his second, he pitched two dominant frames on Wednesday night against the Rockies.

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SAN DIEGO -- The Padres feel they have a starting weapon in their bullpen. It's simply a matter of how and when they decide to use him.

Robbie Erlin has made two relief appearances this season in his return from May 2016 Tommy John surgery. In the first, he was excellent over three scoreless innings, before allowing two runs in the fourth. In his second, he pitched two dominant frames on Wednesday night against the Rockies.

View Full Game Coverage

The Padres plan to limit Erlin's innings this season, as he returns from major surgery (though they won't divulge the specifics of that limit). That played a factor in their decision to open the season with Erlin in the bullpen. Still, he appears to be an obvious candidate for a move to the rotation when the need arises.

"It's definitely possible we could utilize him that way," manager Andy Green said. "When is right for him -- it's as much about him as it is for us, too. When that day comes, we'll definitely consider him. We've thought about him [as a starter] already this year, but we also know he's not going out there to throw 200 innings."

Erlin, to his credit, is merely content to find himself back on a big league mound, no matter the inning.

"Whatever they need," Erlin said. "My pitches are going to be the same, no matter the role. It's the same for me."

There's an argument to be made that Erlin might be better suited for the starting job than he ever has been. His newfound changeup could be the third weapon he had been lacking.

He's thrown 27 changeups this season, recording six swinging strikes. He posted a 2.84 ERA during Spring Training when he leaned heavily on the pitch.

"He's a better pitcher now than he ever has been," said pitching coach Darren Balsley. "The changeup has been the difference. He's always had good fastball command, always had good spin on the curveball, always been knowledgeable about hitters. His changeup is the addition that's made him really good."

The Padres' rotation has struggled to start the year. If push comes to shove, Erlin is the most obvious replacement. For now, he's in the bullpen, and the club has been very pleased with his performance there.

"We're committed to those guys, until it becomes obvious we have to go a different direction," Green said of his starting five. "But he's definitely in the next tier for sure. He's done really a nice job."

Lamet throws

Right-hander Dinelson Lamet threw on flat ground from a short distance on Thursday morning, the first time he's thrown since sustaining a flexor strain in his right forearm two weeks ago.

The club has not revealed the results of an MRI on Lamet's elbow. Lamet's initial timetable for a return was May. The Padres are proceeding with caution, but they remain hopeful he's back on the mound by then.

Renfroe to get a boost in playing time

Despite his reduced role, Hunter Renfroe is off to a hot start to the season. Entering play Thursday, Renfroe was 3-for-10 with two extra-base hits and three walks.

For the time being, Renfroe's "reduced role" is history.

Video: COL@SD: Renfroe lays out for an impressive grab

With Wil Myers on the disabled list, Renfroe is the direct beneficiary of immediate playing time. He's the projected starter in place of Myers in right field, and he could see time at designated hitter this weekend in Houston, too.

"None of us want anything to happen to Wil, obviously he's a huge part of our offense," Renfroe said. "I don't look too much into it. I just come to the park to play, like always, and do what I can. ... I just make sure I'm ready to hit at all times."

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

San Diego Padres, Robbie Erlin