Marlins-Reds Preview

MATT BEARDMORE
The Associated Press

The Cincinnati Reds had to give up plenty to acquire Mat Latos in the offseason, but general manager Walt Jocketty was certain that having Johnny Cueto and the young right-hander at the top of the rotation would make a significant impact.

Cueto did on opening day, and now it's Latos' turn.

Latos makes his Reds debut Saturday night at Great American Ball Bark, where he'll face a light-hitting Miami Marlins team trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2001.

After their starters ranked 13th in the NL last season with a 4.47 ERA, the Reds knew they had to make some changes if they were going to regain the top spot in the NL Central.

On Dec. 17, Cincinnati dealt starter Edinson Volquez and former first-round picks Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to San Diego to acquire Latos.

The 24-year-old Latos, who tied a major league record by allowing two or fewer runs in 15 consecutive starts in 2010, went 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA last season.

"To acquire a pitcher who is ready to fit into the top of a rotation, you have to give up talent," Jocketty said after the deal was announced.

"When we have Cueto and Latos at the top of our rotation, I think people are going to take notice."

The winless Marlins did Thursday when Cueto tossed seven innings of three-hit ball in the Reds' 4-0 season-opening victory.

Latos has not fared well in his career against Miami, going 0-2 with a 9.26 ERA in three starts, but the team he'll face Saturday is batting .119 with nine total bases and one run.

Newcomer Jose Reyes (three singles) is the only Marlin with more than one hit, while sluggers Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton are a combined 0 for 16 with six strikeouts.

"We have to regroup," new manager Ozzie Guillen told the Marlins' official website. "We can't try to get two hits in one at-bat. With the day off (Friday), maybe we can clear our minds. We're putting too much pressure on ourselves."

Perhaps Saturday's starter Ricky Nolasco could relieve some of that pressure while continuing the team's solid starting pitching. Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle both went six innings and yielded three runs or fewer in the first two games.

Nolasco, who finished 10-12 with a 4.67 ERA in 2011, had a relatively strong spring before getting tagged for seven runs - five in the fifth inning - of Sunday's 10-8 exhibition loss to the New York Yankees.

"One bad inning," Guillen said. "But besides that, pretty good."

Nolasco is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in four starts in Cincinnati, going seven strong innings in a 9-5 win in his last appearance there May 1.

Jay Bruce, who hit a two-run homer off Nolasco in that contest, has homered in three of the last four home games against Miami after going deep in the opener.

Reds third baseman Scott Rolen has two doubles and two solo homers in nine at-bats against Nolasco, while Drew Stubbs is 6 for 11 off him.

Cincinnati has won 15 of 19 at home in this series.