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03/16/11 7:30 PM ET

Latos beginning to turn corner with command

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dressing in an empty clubhouse on Wednesday, the only off-day of the spring for the Padres, Mat Latos probably wondered how the rest of his teammates spent the day away from baseball.

"I want to get out of here and go fishing," Latos said.

Instead, Latos spent part of his morning pitching to Minor League hitters on a back field at the Peoria Sports Complex, as the Padres wanted to keep him on his regular throwing schedule.

Latos allowed five runs on six hits and had six strikeouts and three walks in 3 2/3 innings before he made his way back to the comfort of an air-conditioned clubhouse where two beat writers were there to greet him.

"You guys don't have anything better to do?" Latos said, half-joking.

Latos, in his fourth appearance of the spring -- three coming in Cactus League games -- admitted to have trouble building and then sustaining adrenaline in a somewhat sterile environment where the lines weren't even chalked and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds called balls and strikes from behind the mound.

"I got my work in," Latos said.

Better still, said pitching coach Darren Balsley, who watched from behind the backstop, Latos showed improvement on a number of fronts.

"His first couple of outings [in spring] he was erratic. I thought his [fastball] command was good and his curveball command was good. He hasn't had that all spring," Balsley said of Latos, who has a 10.50 ERA in Cactus League games.

"He's getting close."

After essentially cruising through the first two innings Wednesday, Latos allowed all five of his runs in the third inning. Danny Payne had a two-run triple inside the first-base line, and Bobby Kielty had a two-run single the other way.

The inning also saw a ball glance off Latos' glove for a single -- on what appeared to be a potential double-play ball -- and a broken-bat single by James Darnell that brought in a run.

"I'm pleased with a lot of the things I saw today," Balsley said of Latos, who got several strikeouts on breaking balls.

Balsley said the plan is for Latos to throw between 90-95 pitches in his next outing of the spring.

"There were a lot of positive things," Latos said. "I got ground balls. My two-seamer. ... I wish I had that two-seamer every time I threw it. That was a huge positive to the day."

The Padres have yet to announce their starting pitcher for Opening Day in St. Louis on March 31, though if he pitches every fifth day from now on, Opening Day will fall on a day when Latos is scheduled to throw.

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