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03/30/10 9:30 PM ET

Latos has 'great' spring, may make rotation

Padres touted right-hander bidding for final starting spot

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Mat Latos wasn't willing to call his start on Tuesday a success, but he offered no qualms with the opinion that his entire performance this spring was essentially that.

"It's was great," Latos said. "I came out competing for the fifth spot, and we tried to better each other. I came out with a vengeance. I wasn't trying to strike out everyone. I was trying to hit spots. I threw every pitch with no regrets."

Latos, in his final start of the spring, allowed one unearned run over three innings in Tuesday's 7-5 win over the Reds, lowering his ERA to 1.59. It looks like Latos will be fifth starter in the rotation, though there's been no official announcement yet.

The Padres have announced their three starters for the first regular-season series in Arizona that begins on April 5 -- Jon Garland, Chris Young and Kevin Correia. The odds are good the No. 4 starter will be left-hander Clayton Richard.

This was the first appearance for Latos in a game since March 20. It was after that start when Latos complained of soreness in his right elbow. He slept on the elbow awkwardly, and it bothered him for four days.

On Tuesday, Latos struck out three, walked two and allowed three hits. He said that he wasn't entirely happy with the way he pitched, though he said the layoff might have had something to do with it.

"I thought I lost command of my fastball. I couldn't throw it where I needed to," Latos said. "It's possible [the layoff hurt my command], but I don't want to make excuses. I wasn't following through."

The biggest news for Padres manager Bud Black was that Latos emerged from the start feeling good about his elbow.

"His pitch count got a little elevated," Black said, noting Latos threw 50 pitches over the first two innings. "He wasn't really pounding the strike zone. But his elbow felt fine and he got through three innings with limited damage."

Latos has been in competition this spring for the No. 5 starting job with another pitcher who threw Tuesday, Tim Stauffer. Stauffer allowed two run on four hits in 1 1/3 innings to raise his spring ERA to 3.52. Another candidate, left-hander Wade LeBlanc, has a 1.96 ERA.

Sean Gallagher, once a candidate for the fifth starter job, will make the team as a reliever, as should Stauffer, who is out of Minor League options. The Padres could place left-hander reliever Joe Thatcher on the disabled list to start the season, thus opening a spot for the Padres' three out-of-options pitchers (Edward Mujica, Gallagher and Stauffer) to make the team.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.