It hasn’t been a fun season for Mat Latos, but at least he still has his sense of humor.
Scheduled to make his first start for the Marlins on Saturday after a 22-day stint on the disabled list with left knee inflammation, Latos (1-4, 6.12 ERA in nine starts) was playfully combative with reporters in the clubhouse Thursday.
He talked about the “black plague” on his left leg. That’s what he calls the deep bruise left behind by Atlanta’s Cameron Maybin’s screaming line drive to the mound on May 16. Later, Latos referred to his trip to Triple A New Orleans for his rehab start Monday as “fantastic” and then said, “I love going to Triple A.”
Then, Latos unfurled this gem when asked about the Marlins’ playoff hopes: “If we’re going to win a championship before the All-Star Game then we’re screwed.”
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All joking aside, Latos, knows the Marlins, who began the day 7 1/2 games back in the division, are starving for some quality starting pitching (they rank 23rd with a ERA 4.45). And he also knows he has to start turning things around for himself if he’s going to warrant big dollars in free agency next season.
Right now, the trade the Marlins made with the Reds to acquire Latos this winter appears totally one-sided. Anthony DeSclafani, whom the Marlins gave up in the deal, is 5-4 with a 3.53 ERA for the Reds in 12 starts.
“Whether it’s me, whether it’s Tom [Koehler], Brad [Hand], Henderson [Alvarez]... we need guys that are going to go seven-plus innings and stop taxing the bullpen,” said Latos, who made just one start this season that lasted seven innings (back on May 10 at San Francisco). “I certainly haven’t pitched to the level of my ability. So I take just as much blame.”
Latos said there were “no issues” with his knee, leg, arm or body and that he “wasn’t breathing heavy” after his start Monday for the Zephyrs. But he wasn’t sharp, either. Latos threw 99 pitches and only gave up three hits and one run, but he walked five in 4 2/3 innings.
Manager Dan Jennings said the report he got back from New Orleans was that Latos was hitting 95 mph on the radar gun, “the best velocity we had seen.” Now the question is whether the Marlins will see the best of Latos moving forward.
Said Latos: “Hopefully I didn’t skip anything and I can just get into a rhythm and pitch real good.”
This and that
▪ Jennings gave Major League hits leader and leadoff man Dee Gordon the night off Thursday — his first since May 9 — to rest his legs. Gordon has hit .270 over his past 25 games, and seen his batting average drop from .433 on May 15 to .356 over that span.
▪ For the second game in a row Jennings had Christian Yelich batting third and Giancarlo Stanton in the cleanup spot.
“With the way Christian is swinging we see a lot of positive stuff with his rhythm and balance and timing,” Jennings said. “He hit a home run the other night and shot a double down the line [Wednesday]. So we felt like we could go left right left at the top of that order and create some more traffic on the bags for Giancarlo that stands to benefit us and give us a chance to put runs up early.”
▪ The Marlins drafted Jeff Conine’s son, Griffin, in the 31st round Wednesday. Jennings’ thoughts: “You know I hope he turns out to be the kind of player that his dad was or better. Based on what Jeff’s telling me, he is a much better player right now than Jeff was at the same stage. So I’ll trust Jeff’s opinion and hopefully the young man will develop and be a fine major league player.”
▪ Jennings said he hopes Jarred Cosart’s rehab start Thursday night in New Orleans will be his last. Cosart has been on the disabled list since May 14 with vertigo.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (2-3, 4.68) vs. Rockies RHP Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 6.16), 7:10 p.m.
▪ Saturday: Latos (1-4, 6.12) vs. Rockies RHP David Hale (2-0, 4.12), 4:10 p.m.