Robbie Erlin's starts, generally speaking, have been short and sweet this season.
The Padres' No. 7 prospect, acquired in last summer's trade involving Mike Adams, has combined to pitch 10 2 2/3 innings in his first three outings after suffering a slightly strained oblique muscle.
But Erlin sports a 1.69 ERA with 14 strikeouts against only four walks after holding Midland scoreless on two hits in Double-A San Antonio's 7-1 victory on Saturday night. He walked one and fanned eight over four innings.
"Tonight was actually the first [game] where I could extend it a little bit, had 90 pitches to work with," said Erlin, who exited after throwing 82 pitches. "I wasn't too efficient, but I did have a little bit longer leash."
Following last season's trade, Erlin averaged just over four innings in six starts for San Antonio, finding similar success. The 21-year-old left-hander struck out 31, walked four and registered a 1.38 ERA in his first 26 innings with the Missions. He was 5-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 11 appearances with Frisco.
Now the 2009 third-round pick will be able to extend his workload in coming starts, and he said one thing he wants to do is work deeper into games.
"I just want to be more efficient," he said. "I still have to do work on attacking the strike zone and forcing contact, and that'll hopefully make my outings last a little bit longer."
The southpaw from Scotts Valley, Calif., has walked only 28 batters while striking out 302 over 276 2/3 innings in his Minor League career. One pitch he's been trying to add to his bread-and-butter fastball-changeup combo is a slider.
Erlin believes the pitch will become valuable as he faces the stiffer challenges of the advanced levels of the Minors. He learned it last season while still in the Rangers system and has refined it with San Antonio pitching coach Jimmy Jones.
"I learned the slider at the end of last year, so I'm picking up where I left off with that. I just want to gain that feel where I can throw it for a strike in any situation in any count," he said. "That's my No. 1 priority."
On Saturday, Erlin got a boost from five relievers, who gave up a run on two hits over the final five innings. Matt Lollis (1-1) was first out of the bullpen, striking out three in two flawless innings to earn the win. Miles Mikolas recorded the last four outs for his second save.
"The bullpen was awesome, they've been real solid all year," Erlin said. "Lollis came in and threw a couple real strong innings and the back end came through and finished the game off very well. They've been doing a really good job."
Offensively, Padres No. 13 prospect Reymond Fuentes picked up three hits, including two doubles, out of the leadoff spot for the Missions. Jaff Decker (No. 14) added a two-run homer and catcher Ali Solis went 3-for-4 with a homer, triple and three RBIs.