PEORIA, Ariz. -- Promoted from Triple-A Tucson on four occasions in 2013, Robbie Erlin saved his best stint for last during his rookie campaign. Called up a final time on Aug. 28, the left-hander went 2-1 over five starts, compiling a minuscule 1.97 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 32 innings through the end of the Padres' season.
Not a bad way to cap off your first year in the Majors.
Now back with the big league club at Padres Spring Training, Erlin is hoping to parlay his strong finish from last year into an Opening Day roster spot come April.
"I learned so much every time I was up, and I think that's going to serve me well here the next month," Erlin said. "The biggest thing was the experience and just getting all the firsts under my belt. This year I'll feel a little more ready and a little more prepared if I do get the chance to pitch in San Diego, because now I know what to expect."
Already armed with an advanced and deceptive fastball-changeup combination, Erlin said he has made significant strides with his curveball, and he's eager to try it out in the Cactus League.
"The curve is feeling good. It's got really good spin. Now it's just a matter of getting the feel and repeating it," he said. "If I can mix that pitch in consistently, it could be something I can throw ahead in the count and keep hitters off balance."
With the Padres' starting rotation likely already set, Erlin is a candidate for one of the final bullpen positions this spring. The 23-year-old made a pair of relief appearances for the Padres last year and believes he can fill any number of roles in the big leagues, from short or long relieving to spot starting when needed.
For now, though, Erlin is merely focused on improving every day and showing the coaching staff what he can offer.
"I know if I do my work, the rest will take care of itself," he said. "That means just doing what makes you the best at what you do. In my case, it's a solid foundation of mechanics and throwing a lot of strikes."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less