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.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.