Latos listless as Harden hinders bats
Rookie lasts just 3 2/3, but won't necessarily be shut down
SAN DIEGO -- Has the time come for the Padres to shut down 21-year-old rookie pitcher Mat Latos?
That was the question asked of manager Bud Black after the Cubs rolled over the Padres on Wednesday, 7-1, before a crowd of 18,012 at PETCO Park.
"It's something we're discussing," Black said. "... When you look at any pitcher, you're looking at the present and the future."
The question seemed fair enough, given the caveat that the Padres have said for well over a month now that September was going to be the time to have Latos, regarded as their top pitching prospect, stop pitching because of the innings he's accumulated.
Latos (4-3) allowed five runs on seven hits with four walks in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start in seven Major League starts. It was his second rough outing in a row. He allowed seven runs in four innings against St. Louis on Aug. 14.
"I feel a little bit of wear and tear," Latos said. "It's not something I can't push through."
Latos has now pitched a total of 109 2/3 innings this season between two Minor League stops and his seven Major League starts. He pitched 56 innings last season and general manager Kevin Towers has said he didn't want to more than double that in 2009.
Before the start of Wednesday's game against the Cubs, Towers said Latos would likely make this start, one against Atlanta on Tuesday and then one more in Florida on Aug. 30 before the team shut him down.
Has that changed based on what happened in his last two starts of even Latos admitting that he feels some fatigue, "After the adrenaline [of a start] is gone?"
Black, for one, thought Latos held his velocity fine against the Cubs (61-57), who surely worked into some deep counts against the right-hander on Wednesday, frustrating him to no end, which bothered him more than any hit or walk he allowed.
"You look at his fastball, it still had life to hit," Black said. "His breaking ball was OK, the changeup he left up in the zone. He wasn't consistently making pitches with his fastball. Every inning he had to work awfully hard.
"The last two games have been a great learning experience for him."
But still a bitter pill to swallow as Latos has seen his ERA jump from 2.43 to 4.82 after his past two starts. What got to him most against the Cubs wasn't any particular pitch or any of the four walks, but how he let a few close calls get under his skin.
"It got in my head. I let my teammates down, that's what is bothering me," Latos said. "I start to worry about stuff I can't control. I thought a few calls could have gone the other way. I didn't make pitches when I needed to. When I did throw something ... it was up."
Leading, 1-0, the Cubs got to Latos for three runs in the third inning after a single and a walk paved the way for a two-run double by Aramis Ramirez. Then in the fourth inning, Latos got two outs before walking Ryan Theriot and Milton Bradley. Derrek Lee then followed with an RBI double.
Meanwhile, Latos' counterpart, Cubs pitcher Rich Harden (8-7) was dealing. Aside from a single to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning, Harden essentially had his way with the Padres (51-71), who wouldn't get another hit until the ninth inning. By then, Harden was gone, having struck out eight over seven scoreless innings.
"He did a good job throwing strikes," Padres left fielder Chase Headley said. "He didn't even have his good changeup. When a guy like that gets a sizeable lead, it's going to be a good battle. It's hard to string together hits."
The Padres avoided the shutout when Everth Cabrera singled and eventually scored in the ninth inning on Headley's RBI single up the middle.
When the Padres do shut down Latos, he won't just disappear. Towers said that he will likely do some throwing on the side and then, "become a student of the game," Towers indicated.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.