March 17, 2011
Spring training results are always to be taken with a grain of salt. However, there are some performances, such as the one turned in by San Diego Padres ace Mat Latos(notes) on Wednesday, that justify a double take.
Facing a lineup of Padres minor leaguers, Latos was completely ineffective, allowing five runs on six hits while walking three in 3 2/3 innings. The outing does not count against Latos' spring ERA, which already sits at an uncomfortable 10.50.
But it wasn't just the ugly numbers that were concerning to San Diego's coaching staff. His demeanor also left a lot to be desired.
"I would have liked to see better body language from Mat today," said pitching coach Darren Balsley. "But he'll calm down once we start the season. Last year he did a good job with mound presence and poise. He's aware of his emotions."
As for Wednesday's unsatisfying results, Latos blamed those on his inability to focus while pitching against friends and former minor league teammates. Could be true, I guess, but I also wonder if the focus Latos has put on making his dislike for the San Francisco Giants known is becoming a source of added and unnecessary pressure.
OK, I might be overthinking that a bit. It really could be any number of things, including something as simple as a mechanical flaw or a young pitcher still finding his way, but there's no doubt Mat Latos hasn't been right, not only on Wednesday, but all through March.
That makes his final two spring starts worth watching or at least monitoring. If we don't start seeing signs of that calm and poise that made him so dominant in his first full season, the Padres would have good reason to be concerned. If we do, then maybe it is as easy as flipping a switch. In that case, I'll know better than to wonder about Mat Latos again.