Closing Time: Mat Latos, one-hit wonder

Mat Latos(notes) is 15-percent owned as this morning's Closing Time goes to post. That number should be doubled, perhaps tripled, in the next few days.

Latos was dazzling at San Francisco Thursday, allowing just a scratch infield single in a 106-pitch masterpiece. He struck out eight, got 11 addition ground-ball outs, and was hitting 95 on the gun in the final inning. It's not difficult to see why the Padres touted him so much over the last year or so.

The surface stats look good with Latos – 3.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP – and you'll get backed up on the secondary level. He's got 32 strikeouts against just nine walks, he's getting ground balls better than 50 percent of the time. And remember the park and division – Petco is a safe backdrop for the home starts, and a pitcher generally likes working in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Everything's in line for a possible breakthrough year.

If you want to kick the tires on Latos and make a temporary investment, the schedule plays along nicely. He gets San Francisco again next week, followed by Seattle and Washington. With all due respect to the improved Nats, there isn't a nasty matchup in that mix. Come along for the ride.

The Phillies may have dodged a bullet with the Brad Lidge(notes) situation; the MRI on Lidge's elbow came back with encouraging news. He's got inflammation on the lining of the elbow joint but no structural damage; he's essentially day-to-day at this point. This doesn't mean you want to dump Jose Contreras(notes) just yet; keep in mind Ryan Madson(notes) is down for two months and no one is going to be sold on Lidge's health and effectiveness until we see him perform for a few weeks. And the way Contreras has been pitching this year, he's valuable in most leagues even if he's not the ninth-inning guy.

Bud Norris(notes) has his ups and downs like most pitchers, but he's figured out the Cardinals. He's beaten them four straight times, allowing just one run over 28 innings; here's a look at what transpired Thursday. "He's pitched lights out every time against us," Ryan Ludwick(notes) said. "All of a sudden it was 95 and 96 and you could see the confidence building." The 6.03 ERA is scary to look at, but Norris has impressive stuff and we can't discard him out of hand; look at those pretty 41 strikeouts over 34.1 innings.

The key for Norris Thursday was pounding the strike zone; he entered the day with a terrible walk rate (6.8/9) but he didn't give out any walks against the Cardinals. If you've got a daring streak or you want to chase some strikeouts, Norris might be worth a go next week at Chavez Ravine.

The Royals finally put Trey Hillman out of his misery, firing the skipper Thursday and handing things over to team consultant Ned Yost. With that move taken care of, let's be sure to pay close attention to the Royals this weekend at Chicago, trying to get a sense of how Yost is going to handle the gridlocked infield.

Alberto Callaspo(notes) has been one of the team's best hitters to date (.304 average, .507 slugging, six homers), though he's a hack-first type and a defensive liability. We all know the limitations of shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) (.283 average, but only a .312 OBP), and he's still around to potentially muck things up. Our affection for Mike Aviles(notes) is well-documented, he should play in the mix somewhere. There's Chris Getz(notes), who's healthy again and offers some speed (that said, he's at .189 and he has no power). And who knows when we might see Alex Gordon(notes) back in the bigs?

Early performances in the Yost Era might go a long way towards cementing 2010 jobs. Don't blown off the Kansas City lineup without a full audit here, every big league club has something to give us in our numbers racket.

Ben Sheets(notes) is about as consistent as a paper cup in a hurricane. His 17-run expedition through Tampa Bay and Toronto got him out of our circle of trust, but since then he's pitched 12.1 strong innings and piled up 16 strikeouts (including eight at Texas Thursday). He's got Seattle and San Francisco waiting, if you feel like taking a chance.

Brennan Boesch(notes) continues to rake in the middle of the Tigers lineup, clubbing his third homer on Thursday and raising his average to .368. He's got 16 RBIs in 16 games and the club is impressed; note that Detroit sent Ryan Raburn(notes) down to Triple-A earlier this week. What happens when Carlos Guillen(notes) comes back? Jim Leyland gets creative, according to a team source.

Handshakes: Alfredo Simon(notes) kept things interesting against the Mariners, hitting a batter, walking another, then allowing a shallow single to Ichiro Suzuki(notes). The Orioles escaped when Corey Patterson(notes) threw Josh Wilson(notes) out at home, ending the game. Despite a messy 1.50 WHIP, Simon still hasn't allowed a run over eight innings. … Matt Lindstrom(notes) saved all three Houston wins at St. Louis, including a scoreless ninth on Thursday. He's in line for some rest, having worked on five of the last six days. Most of his appearances have been dotted with baserunners, but he hasn't allowed a run since April 20. … Joakim Soria(notes) got his first save chance in a week and came through, retiring three of four men against Cleveland. Soria's 3.86 ERA is higher than what we expect (he's already allowed four homers), but take heart in the other stats: he's got 22 strikeouts, against just four walks, over 14 innings.

Injury Blog: Nelson Cruz(notes) (hamstring) is expected to come off the disabled list Friday, with Ryan Garko(notes) getting sent to Triple-A. … Huston Street(notes) (shoulder) kicked off his rehab assignment Thursday, pitching a scoreless inning at Double-A. The plan is for him to get a handful of appearances in before the team re-evaluates the situation next weekend. … Mark DeRosa(notes) (wrist) had a cortisone shot Wednesday and he'll continue to rest for few more days. If he doesn't show improvement by Sunday, the Giants will probably put him on the disabled list. … Franklin Gutierrez(notes) has a sore upper-back muscle and hasn't played the last two days. … Eric Young Jr. is dealing with a stress fracture in his right tibia, something he suffered in the middle of Wednesday's game. It's not clear yet if the Rockies will have to make a roster move. … Jason Kendall(notes) (forearm) got a day off after being plunked on Wednesday. … Nick Swisher(notes) (biceps) got the day off Thursday but it's just a day-to-day thing. … A couple of NL West shortstops are on the mend, with Rafael Furcal(notes) (hamstring) and Everth Cabrera(notes) (hamstring) both expected back Friday.

Speed Round: Troy Tulowitzki(notes) got back to action Thursday and rapped out a couple of hits. … Another collar for Grady Sizemore(notes), with two more strikeouts. He's got 34 whiffs, against nine walks, for the year – and he's still looking for that first homer, though he did have one washed out last week against Detroit. … CC Sabathia(notes) is dealing with a gopher problem of late, giving up seven round-trippers over his last five games. Boesch and Miguel Cabrera(notes) got him Thursday. … Jonathan Sanchez(notes) was the tough-luck loser to Latos by the bay, allowing just one run over eight innings. The nasty left-hander as a 2.66 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for the year, making good on the promise we saw in the second half last year. … Welcome to the win column, Zack Greinke(notes). You can't keep a good man down. … The Dizzle Heads want C.J. Wilson(notes) appreciation in this space, so here's some Rangers video for you. Enjoy. … Miguel Olivo(notes) marked his territory over the last two days, going 7-for-8 with a pair of homers (one of them a game-winner). It's well-timed for Olivo, given that he was in a 2-for-28 slump prior to Wednesday and Chris Iannetta(notes) has been productive at Triple-A (.318, four homers in 44 at-bats).

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