There has been plenty of buzz about the starting lineup’s new additions for the Marlins. But it’s the starting pitching rotation’s performance that could have the greatest impact on what began Monday as a hopeful 2015 season.
“Our lineup has improved, but our pitching is going to be the key,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “Pitching and defense are what’s going to carry us. I know everyone likes talking about our lineup, but we still have to go out and pitch.”
One of their key offseason additions on the mound — right-hander Mat Latos — will make his debut Tuesday night.
Latos, a graduate of Coconut Creek High who was acquired by the Marlins in December in a trade with the Reds, is hoping to bounce back from a tough 2014 season in which he was hampered by elbow and knee injuries.
“It’s always a good feeling, but it’s just about taking it day by day,” Latos said. “As far as the start, it’s a matter of sticking to the game plan and just pitching to the best of my ability and putting up zeros.”
Even as the Marlins anxiously await Jose Fernandez’s return from Tommy John surgery, Latos should add some depth to a rotation that has the potential, if healthy, to be one of the best in baseball this season.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of this ballclub,” Latos said. “There’s a lot of talent on this team, and guys who want to win. It’s a good staff from top to bottom.”
Latos said he isn’t sure how many family members and friends will attend Tuesday’s game. But he is excited to pitch for the first time at Marlins Park for the home team.
Latos, who often attended Marlins games a kid, played at Broward College and became friends with former Marlin outfielder Juan Pierre when he met him while working part-time as a hibachi chef at a Pan-Asian restaurant in Coral Springs.
“It’s a sense of pride since I grew up here and watched this team as a kid,” Latos said. “I might be a little anxious, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Latos won his last start at Marlins Park on Aug. 1 last season as a member of the Reds. He is 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA in three career starts at Marlins Park, all as a member of the Reds.
Because of injuries, Latos was limited to only 1021/3 innings last season after throwing for 2102/3 innings in 2013 and 2091/3 innings in 2012. From mid-June to early September last year, Latos went 5-5 with a 3.25 ERA.
Latos had an elbow scope in October, and this spring, he threw 151/3 innings and had a 7.04 ERA in four Grapefruit League games this spring.
The Marlins are hopeful Latos will find his form quickly and be consistent like he has during a six-year major-league career in which he has not posted an ERA higher than 3.50 in any season.
“My body feels great, my arm feels great and my knee feels great,” Latos said. “It’s just a matter of staying healthy all the way through the season.”