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Erlin gets tuneup in advance of Monday's start

Left-hander faced three batters Saturday night
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PITTSBURGH -- Robbie Erlin got the perfect tuneup for his foray back into the starting rotation.

With the Padres ahead by four runs in the ninth inning Saturday night, Erlin, who hadn't pitched since Monday, faced three Pirates hitters and retired them all. He's slated to start Monday in Washington in place of the ailing Joey Lucchesi.

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PITTSBURGH -- Robbie Erlin got the perfect tuneup for his foray back into the starting rotation.

With the Padres ahead by four runs in the ninth inning Saturday night, Erlin, who hadn't pitched since Monday, faced three Pirates hitters and retired them all. He's slated to start Monday in Washington in place of the ailing Joey Lucchesi.

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"It was almost a bullpen side session for him, an opportunity to face a couple of hitters," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He was efficient enough where it worked out really well. ... It had been a lot of days since he pitched, and you want a guy to have feel for the baseball when they get on the mound."

Said Erlin: "Getting in a game scenario -- it was nice to get in that atmosphere. It had been a couple of days."

Monday's start presents something of an opportunity for Erlin. He's been excellent in the bullpen all season, having posted a 1.96 ERA there. But his lone start was a dud. Erlin allowed six runs in three innings against the Dodgers on April 16.

"I just don't think I threw the ball well that day," Erlin said. "I didn't look at it a whole lot. It was what it was, I learned from it, and the next outing, I made the necessary adjustments."

Video: MIL@SD: Erlin flies through 1-2-3 frame in the 7th

Erlin's Monday start might not be a one-off. If he holds his own, he could maintain his starting job. Lucchesi's recovery from a right hip strain is moving slower than the club had hoped, and it's unlikely the rookie left-hander returns for the next trip through the rotation.

The Padres wouldn't need a No. 5 starter again until May 29. But they prefer to take advantage of every off-day possible to give rookie left-hander Eric Lauer an extra day of rest. With that in mind, it's possible Erlin simply remains in the rotation and pitches next Sunday in Los Angeles, as well.

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

San Diego Padres, Robbie Erlin