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LeBron has company: Cramping issues push back Mat Latos' rehab

Not that it will make LeBron James or fans of the Miami Heat feel any better after they dropped Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, but the NBA's flagship star wasn't the only professional athlete to have an outing cut short by a painful cramp this week.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who was making what was initially scheduled to be his final rehab start for Triple A Louisville, was also forced to exit his start on Wednesday after developing a cramp in his calf.

Latos, who has yet to appear in a major league game this season, was originally sidelined in spring training with a left knee injury. While working his way back in April, he developed inflammation in his right elbow, which pushed his rehab back even further. The Reds had planned to have him back in their rotation on Monday. However, with the cramps shortening Latos' most recent outing on Wednesday, they've decided to extend his assignment, which isn't sitting well with Latos.

"The cramp happened; it was minor," Latos said. "They took me out as a precaution. I didn't want to come out. It's pretty bogus I have to go on another rehab assignment. But it it is what it is. I don't make the decisions around here. I'm a puppet on a string. I get told to do what I need to do and I do it.

"I can tell you I'm about as healthy as I've been. I could pitch in a game if I needed to. Like I said, I can't do anything about it. If the cramp is the reason why I'm going on another rehab assignment . . . It is what it is."

The sight of LeBron James asking out of an NBA Finals game at its most criticial moment and then being carried to the sideline is one we won't soon forget. Fortunately, Latos' condition wasn't that serious. In fact, he obviously felt like he could have and should have continued despite being noticeably hampered. The Reds, though, were not going to risk letting an important member of their rotation set himself back any farther by pushing through cramps. 

"He may have wanted to stay in, but it was apparent that it was something he shouldn't be pitching with as we get closer and closer to him joining the club," Reds manager Bryan Price said Thursday. "It was disappointing he wasn't able to get up to the innings and pitch limit that we had set. So he'll be in later on today and we'll kind of reassess the severity of it. It doesn't sound like it's really an issue; it's more of a cramp than anything else. That being said, we still have to take a look at him and make a decision on what the next step is."

Sometimes players need to be protected from themselves, so this is definitely a smart way to handle things on the Reds side. You don't want Latos to be tempted to change up his mechanics to get through one start, especially one of such little consequence to them overall. 

Unfortunately, though, you're always going to have those fans who have clearly never experienced a cramp in their life, who make jokes and are unfairly critical when a professional can't play through something as "minor" as cramping. Heck, even Gatorade jumped in on LeBron, who represents rival Powerade, and later apologized for taking it too far.

Dallas Latos, the wife of Mat Latos, has obviously had her fill of those jokes in wake of her husband's cramping issues and especially LeBron's. 

Listen, folks. Cramping is nothing to mess with. If you've never had one, feel fortunate, because it will humble you quickly. Fortunately for James and for Latos, it appears there won't be any lingering consequences. James is expected to suit up without any restrictions in Game 2 — pending arena conditions — while an unhappy Latos will return to the mound on Monday again for Louisville.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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