Monday, April 11, 2011
The pitching shoulder needed refreshing. So, too, perhaps, the psyche of Mat Latos, who leaves the disabled list tonight for his season debut against the Reds. Scouts who saw Latos sputter in March suggest he went to the disabled list as much for his outlook as a sore shoulder. Whatever the ingredients inside the move, the Padres say they're pleased with how it turned out. "I think a little rest after a rough spring training has cleared Mat's mind a little bit and got him back to normal," pitching coach Darren Balsley told me Sunday. Down time also allowed Balsley and Latos to synch up the 6-foot-6 right-hander's delivery. Whereas Latos was scattershot during a Cactus League in which he had nine walks, four strikeouts and a 9.00 ERA in 10 innings, he hit the mitt in recent bullpen sessions and a simulated game. It only helped Latos that Balsley's latest tutorials came at sea level, where a pitcher's grip and curveball are better than in arid Arizona. "The ball's coming out of his hand good and his command is back," Balsley said. "Other than his health right now, the thing that I'm most pleased with is, his offspeed stuff is sharp again. It might just be a matter of him getting out of the thin air in Arizona, or the bullpen repetition." For what it's worth, Latos had a ninja-sharp spring training in 2010 (1.59 ERA, 14 strikeouts/five walks) before he went 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA as a major league sophomore. He faded late in the year when the Padres were red-lining him to try to win the West, but not before he joined the Cy Young conversation. The Tattoed One has 90-100 pitches in him tonight, Balsley guessed, noting the 72-pitch simulated game last Sunday in Arizona. "I expect to see from Mat what we saw from him last year the majority of the time," he said.