Mat Latos’ second-inning implosion in Monday’s 12-3 loss to the Mets was just the latest example of a Marlins starter not being at his spring-time best.
Latos, making his third start in his first spring with his hometown team, gave up nine runs — all of them earned — on eight hits and walked two in an endless three-inning outing at Roger Dean Stadium. He threw 66 pitches, and only 35 of them were strikes. After a harmless 1-2-3 first inning, Latos allowed the first eight hitters to reach in the second before David Wright mercifully grounded into a double play. By then, the Mets had put seven runs on the board.
“I couldn’t find my release point,” Latos said. “That was borderline embarrassing.”
And the Mets weren’t even done punishing him. Veteran Michael Cuddyer blasted a solo homer to right-center to complete the eight-run outburst. Latos served up more damage in the third, walking the leadoff batter before Anthony Recker ripped an RBI double. Latos retired the next three batters to end an outing that took his spring ERA from 2.57 to 9.90 and brought him to inject some humor afterward.
“I’m his untalented twin,” said the big right-hander, a former Coconut Creek High standout who was acquired from the Reds in December.
What can’t be glossed over are the recent struggles of the Marlins’ staff, with Opening Day only two weeks away. Jarred Cosart has had three rough outings in a row, with his spring ERA sitting at 8.49. Batters are hitting .360 off Cosart. Henderson Alvarez, who is supposed to be the staff ace until Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery, has a 5.40 ERA. Only Dan Haren (1-1, 1.93 ERA) has thrived among the starters who aren’t expected to be in the back of the rotation.
Manager Mike Redmond isn’t exactly encouraged, but he also isn’t panicking. He said there are no plans to make changes to a projected rotation of Alvarez, Latos, Haren, Cosart and Tom Koehler, who is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA this spring.
“You know from the experience that those guys have that they are going to prepare themselves for Opening Day,” he said.
“But at the same time, you don’t like to give up eight runs,” said Redmond, re-living Monday’s second-inning nightmare.
The one positive Redmond could think of was that Latos “got his pitches in.”
Latos was just thankful the game didn’t count.
“Good news — it’s March, not April,” he said.
▪ While one local guy struggled, another one continued to thrive Monday. First baseman Michael Morse, the former Davie Nova High star who is also in his first spring with the Marlins, crushed two home runs and went 3 for 3 with three RBI to account for all of the team’s offense. Morse is now hitting .379 this spring with a whopping OPS of 1.299.