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03/06/12 7:25 PM ET
Latos excited for opportunity in Cincy
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Mat Latos has seemed to settle in at camp with his status as a new guy on a different team. One of the few issues Latos encountered thus far was returning to his old Spring Training complex on Tuesday to pitch in his first game vs. the Mariners. Seattle and Latos' former Padres team share the same facility. "The only thing that was weird was I didn't know how to find the visiting clubhouse," Latos said. "I tried to park in the Padres' lot, but they weren't having it." The start itself wasn't overly dazzling for Latos, who pitched two scoreless innings and gave up two hits and a walk. He threw 31 pitches, 16 for strikes. There were some hard hit balls, including two flies to the warning track. But the purpose of the outing, as always in the spring, was to get work in and work on pitches.
According to Latos, the pitch selection was mostly fastballs and sliders, with one curveball. He didn't throw his changeup."Everything felt real good coming out of my hand," Latos said. "My arm felt great -- so did my mechanics, delivery, everything." Latos, 24, was part of one of the biggest trades of the past offseason, when Cincinnati acquired him for prospects Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Edinson Volquez. The trade stunned Latos and his family, because he was under the impression he was in San Diego's long-term plans. The shock he got from his old team was soon coupled with concerns about delivering the goods for his new one. "I think for about the first month, I sat there and thought about it and was like 'Holy [cow], I was traded for four guys. I have to come out and prove this and prove that,'" Latos said. "I started looking at it as if I do something that's great, if I ever throw a no-hitter, I have to forget about it and work the next day. To be honest with you, I try not to think about it as much as possible." In January, while traveling to Cincinnati for the kickoff of the club's caravan, Latos and his wife had the good fortune of flying on the same plane as Reds manager Dusty Baker. In 1975, Baker was the key to a six-player trade from the Braves to the Dodgers that sent four players back to Atlanta. He offered Latos advice on how to handle it, and told him not put pressure on himself. "He doesn't have to prove anything to anybody," Baker said. "Just pitch, and hopefully he gets better through the natural progression of experience and time." In 2010, his first full season in the Majors, Latos broke out for the Padres by going 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA, 189 strikeouts and 50 walks over 184 2/3 innings. The 2011 season was a step backward, as he went 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts and 194 1/3 innings. He walked 62 and struck out 185. Latos reported to Reds camp early, and got to work ahead of schedule with pitching coach Bryan Price. "I do know we had to give up four very good players to get Mat. It wasn't a dump on San Diego's part," Price said. "They stabilized their system with four good young players. My feeling is he's a good young guy, a hard worker and that he wants to come here and win and be a part of what we want here." What the Reds want most of all is to claim the National League Central division. Latos' addition was the first of several aggressive moves made by general manager Walt Jocketty. The Reds rotation struggled with consistency last season, and the hope is that Latos can stabilize things as the No. 2 starter behind ace Johnny Cueto. Pitching for a possible contender is something that appeals to Latos. "It's a great opportunity," he said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity that I have been given. I'm just going to make the best of it."