2014 Reds

Mat Latos returns

You may have heard that Mat Latos is pitching tonight. When the 26-year-old takes the mound in Milwaukee, it will herald his return from a long, strange trip through the nation’s health care system. It seems appropriate that we get reacquainted with Mat and review his unwelcome adventure.

Early Years in San Diego Mathew Adam Latos was selected by San Diego at the age of 18 in the eleventh round of the 2006 amateur draft. He signed a year later and spent 2007 and 2008 in the Padres minor league system. In 2009, Latos pitched four games in A-ball, then was promoted to AA for nine starts.  But young Mr. Latos was on the fast track to the major leagues. On July 19, 2009, he debuted for the San Diego Padres and made the first of ten starts his rookie season.

Trade to the Reds Latos pitched two full seasons for the Padres, making 31 starts in each of 2010 and 2011. In a trade that literally no one outside the two general managers saw coming, the Reds acquired Mat Latos from San Diego for Yonder Alonso (1B), Yasmani Grandal (C), Edinson Volquez (SP) and Brad Boxberger (RP) on December 17, 2011.

Contract Status Latos signed a contract with the Reds for $11.5 million that covered his first two arbitration seasons. He’s earning $7.25 million in 2014. 2015 will be his third arbitration year and he can become a free agent in 2016.

Performance for the Reds Analysts were skeptical about Latos’ transition from pitcher-friendly PETCO Park to the more cozy Great American Ball Park, but he has managed that change well. Latos has made 65 starts and compiled a 28-11 record, with three complete games, while averaging 210 IP. His ERA (3.32) has been slightly below his ERA-estimator metrics (3.48 FIP, 3.59 xFIP, 3.59 SIERA). Over the two seasons, he’s earned 8.1 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, which uses ERA as a baseline and 7.3 WAR according to FanGraphs, which uses FIP. His two years pitching for the Reds have been remarkably similar.

Pitch Portfolio Latos throws his fastball 60 percent (92.6 mph) of the time, a slider 25 percent (86 mph), a curve ball 11 percent and a change-up the remaining 4 percent. His strike-out rate (21.4%), walk-rate (7%) and swinging-strike percentage are all better than league-average.

Injuries That brings us to Mat Latos and his series of injuries. The fateful journey began when Latos had arthroscopic surgery last October to remove bone chips in his right elbow. He had been feeling soreness in his elbow the final week of the regular season which forced his replacement by Johnny Cueto for the Wild Card play-in game in Pittsburgh. You (and Dusty Baker) may remember that game not going so well. Cueto himself had barely pitched in 2013 due to recurring oblique injuries.

Mat Latos had apparently fully recovered from the elbow surgery when he reported to Goodyear this February. On the first official day of spring training however, the Angry Reds’ Meniscus Hating God struck again. Latos slipped while performing the unusual practice of throwing a baseball, tearing the meniscus in his left knee. Latos underwent surgery to repair the cartilage and missed all of spring training.

Coming off the knee surgery, Mat Latos had begun his journey back to the Reds rotation. After making his first minor league rehab start, Latos felt pain in his right forearm. Uh-oh pain. Prepare post about epidemic of Tommy John surgeries and moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation pain. But fortunately for Latos and the Reds, an MRI showed Mat Latos has a healthy and strong ligament. The rest period prescribed for the less-serious flexor mass strain in his elbow further delayed Latos’ return and ultimately landed him on the 60-day DL. His rehab period was extended by one start due to a calf cramp during a late rehab assignment for AAA Louisville.

Today Mat Latos replaces Tony Cingrani in the Reds starting rotation. It marks the first time all season the Reds haven’t had at least one important player on the disabled list. The club has yet to indicate whether Cingrani will be assigned to the bullpen or sent to AAA where he can continue to develop as a starter. Bryan Price said last night the decision had been made, but they weren’t going to announce it until today.

Meanwhile, welcome back, Mat.

20 thoughts on “Mat Latos returns

  1. The Reds just made a midseason deal for a right-handed ace starting pitcher and didn’t even have to give up so much as a player to be named later or a bundle of cash. Welcome back Mat Latos. My only concern is a short term one. Mat is a passionate guy and tends to get too wound up at times so I would not be surprised to see him struggle a bit with his control today as the adrenaline takes over when he steps on the mound in the first inning. Hopefully, he will settle down and pitch a good game. I look for a lot of good games from Latos the rest of the way.

    • Latos might (eventually) even be better than otherwise because of less wear on his arm at the end of the year. He’s one of the top starters in the game and only 26 years old. I agree it wouldn’t be surprising to see him struggle with command today. Too amped up. I’m sure Bryan Price will talk with him about that.

  2. Interesting that no move has yet been announced. Could thee be a trade in the works? it has to be one of the relievers that is leaving, but whom?
    The only candidates to be sent to AAA are Ondrusek, Hoover and Cingrani. No one else has options. They could DL Marshall or LeCure. They could DFA Marshall, although his salary probably prevents that.

    We should know in an hour or two.

    • The delay in announcing the decision is weird, unless there is something in the works. Of course that could mean that nothing happens if a trade is in the works but can’t be consumated. I can’t imagine anyone touching Marshall at this point, but I can someone taking a flyer on LeCure, Parra, Hoover or Ondrusek. I don’t think any of those players would fetch a significant return, but Broxton might gain significant interest and of course Chapman would garner a lot of attention. So we wait for word on any transactions or the decision to option Cingrani or DFA Bernadina to clear room on the 25-man roster. No move to clear room on the 40-man roster is necessary when Latos is activated.

    • I don’t think it’s made up. It’s pretty plain to see that Marshall is nowhere near full-strength.

  3. Latos need to keep his emotions under check which is a hard thing to do being his first start of the yr and all. I say Ondrusek, Marshall need sent down or traded.

  4. Why don’t we (meaning the Reds, of course!) make an offer to the Cubs for Samardzjida?, along the lines of Cingrani and a couple of minor league prospects? By the way, I am glad to have Mat Latos back, in keeping with the motif of this conversation.

      • Can never have too much major league caliber starters and Simon is bound for regression at some point right? I do agree though that starting pitching is not really where the Reds will be looking to make the team better.

        • I guess you’re talking about earned runs allowed (ERA) as the only measure you’re interested in. Even by that criteria, it’s time to wake up:

          April: 1.60 ERA
          Now: 2.95 ERA

          If you care about any other measures, say batting average against:

          April: .182
          Now: .230

          Slugging against:

          April: .275
          Now: .384

          Home Runs against (HR/9):

          April: 0.53
          Now: 1.20

          He’s pitched really well. The best he’s ever pitched as a starter, by far. His last game he did well. But he’s not going to keep it up. In fact, he already hasn’t.

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