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Erlin pitches five perfect innings
Rangers' third-rounder strikes out nine in first career start
05/18/2010 10:45 PM ET
Robbie Erlin had made eight relief appearances before Tuesday's start.
Robbie Erlin had made eight relief appearances before Tuesday's start. (John M. Setzler, Jr.)

A year ago, Robbie Erlin was looking forward to his high school graduation.

Erlin continued his early Minor League success Tuesday, striking out nine over five perfect innings in his first career start as the Hickory Crawdads beat the Kannapolis Intimidators, 5-2, in the first game of a doubleheader.

"I felt good, I was locating my fastball well and my off-speeds were working," said Erlin, the Rangers' third-round pick in the 2009 Draft. "I felt pretty good out there."

Erlin had allowed just one earned in eight relief outings before getting the start in the opener. The Rangers have him on a limited innings count this season, so he was eased into the Minors last month.

"I'd been told around this time I'd move into the starting rotation," Erlin said. "I've been starting my whole life, so I'm pretty comfortable with it."

Erlin's comfort was misery for the Intimidators as he set them down in order on 68 pitches.

"Fastball, curve and changeup, I was able to locate my fastball inside and outside to both lefties and righties," he said. "And I think that kind of made it easy to pitch off of. I guess my fastball is what I had working best."

The 19-year-old left-hander induced three ground balls and three popouts while facing the minimum.

"I wanted to stay in there, like every pitcher would, but I understand the reasoning behind it. They were upfront with me, I completely understand," he said. "That's how it goes sometimes."

Erlin also said he didn't realize he'd been perfect until glancing at his pitching line after his stint.

"I really didn't think about it, I thought more about executing each pitch. And when I got done, I looked back and kind of noticed it then, so that was pretty cool."

The California native is no stranger to no-hit efforts -- he tossed a 15-strikeout gem in 2009 for Scotts Valley High School en route to being named the 2009 Sentinel All-County Player of the Year.

Erlin originally committed to attend Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, then accepted a $425,000 signing bonus when the Rangers made him the 93rd overall pick last June.

Texas native Trevor Hurley was called on to keep the perfect game alive but allowed two runs on a pair of hits and a walk, retiring two batters in the sixth.

Erlin, who improved to 1-0 with an 0.36 ERA, said he hasn't paid much attention to his stats or his success.

"I don't really think about it much," he said. "I take each outing at a time and try and put what I'm working on in the bullpen into the game. It's more about focusing on improving my overall game, I'm not thinking about stats or anything. My pitching coach, Brad Holman, has made it easy and helped me a lot."

Erlin made his Minor League debut last summer, appearing in three games for the Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. He made his full-season debut on April 10, striking out five over two scoreless frames at Hagerstown. He earned his first victory in his next outing on April 15 at Asheville and has cruised since -- the lefty has not allowed a run since April 23.

"I'm working on developing as a pitcher, I'm taking as much information as I can from Brad and Danny Clark and Mark Connor, our pitching coordinators," Erlin said. "I'm working on improving the overall mind-set and everything that goes into pitching, not statistical goals."

As for making the jump from high school in California to Hickory, N.C., Erlin said it's been no sweat.

"It's really fun. We have a great group of guys out here and they make it really fun," he said. "They know my background and that I'm young, so they've helped me out a lot. It's been an easy transition."

Danny Wild is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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