Wednesday, June 13, 2012
CINCINNATI — Suddenly, Mat Latos is displaying why Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty was willing to trade half the city of Louisville to pry him away from the San Diego Padres.
Just when the Reds needed it most, when the clubhouse is ravaged by flu, weakening the bullpen, the bench and the shortstop, Latos mixed in an emerald — seven innings, two runs, seven hits one walk, seven strikeouts in a 5-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.
And suddenly, from nowhere, it seems, Latos is 5-2.
“He threw the ball great, was aggressive, had a good tempo and he had an excellent breaking ball,” Manager Dusty Baker said of Latos.
THE BIG MOMENT arrived in the fourth inning with the Reds lead, 1-0. Cleveland filled the bases with no outs, but Latos escaped by giving up ony one run.
“Usually the fourth and fifth innings have been his nemesis,” said Baker. “We held our breath in the seventh because they had some quality hitters coming up.” But Latos survived.
“Best game I threw all year? Yeah, I feel that way,” said Latos. “I had a pitch I’d lost touch with that I threw a lot in 2010 — my two-seam fastball. And my curveball was working really good. It was a matter of throwing everything for strikes.”
Of his bases-loaded and no-out situation, he said, “That’s was huge. I would have liked to have gotten out of it with no runs. But if the past I’d give up two or three runs right there and my pitch-count goes up.” He used 99 pitches, 69 for strikes in his seven innings.
SECOND BASEMAN BRANDON Phillips, who elevates himself for the Indians, who traded him for less than what the Native Americans received for Manhattan Island, slashed them again — three hits that including a run-scoring single and a two-run home run that turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-2 lead.
“I told Brandon before the series, ‘You know we’re playing the Indians, don’t you?’” said Baker. “If we can get Brandon going, boy, we can really do something with Joey Votto in front of him. That means a lot because you can’t be a one-man team. That’s big in the equation, but we have to get other guys going, too.”
ON THE DAY after he pitched a complete game against the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto was playing second base during batting practice and doing a passable imitation of Brandon Phillips.
“He’s an athlete and he loves the game,” said manager Dusty Baker.
Baker believes Cueto yanked the light switch on his ability when he was coaxed into abandoning the stationary bicycle and incorporating heavy road work into his running schedule. Now Cueto runs as if he is in perpetual training for the Olympics marathon.
“And he might qualify,” Baker said with a laugh. “His improvement began when he started seeing results and that led him down the right path.
“Sometimes the players get tired of me talking about old-school guys, because I know I got tired of it when I played,” said Baker. “Sometimes old-fashioned stuff is better. We’re always looking for different training methods and new machines, but there is no substitute for old-fashioned running.” BAKER REMEMBERS ONE day in spring training when he played that opposing pither Ferguson Jenkins ran from foul-line to foul-line around the warning track for a full nine innings of an exhibition game.
“He kept passing me when I was standing in left field, inning after inning after inning,” said Baker. “And people wondered how he could throw 300 innings five or six years in a row? That’s how.”
Bakers says the heavy influence emanates from Bronson Arroyo, another guy who runs the streets of Cincinnati, criss-crossing the bridges between Ohio and Kentucky. Baker notices that Mat Latos is running more and that Homer Bailey picked it up this year, doing more than he had done before.
“Bronson runs and I mean really runs,” said Baker. “And you see him throw all the innings he throws and he is never hurt, never misses a start. For all this I commend our fitness and training staff. They run with them. My son (Darren) even runs the stadium stairs with Cueto.”
DREW STUBBS IS one of the half dozen victims of the flu bug that has infiltrated the Reds clubhouse, knocking back his work toward getting back in the lineup after injuring an oblique.
Stubbs was scheduled to take batting practice Wednesday, but wasn’t up to it.
“We have to make an adjustment to where he is because it has been nine days since he played,” said Baker. “We’re reluctant to use him now because then you hurt his retroactive date.”
If he doesn’t play and the Reds decide to put him on the 15-day DL, they can back-date it to June 5, when Stubbs last played. If he tries to play and has a relapse, the 15 days start all over.
“So he isn’t usable,” said Baker. “We’re contemplating something, but we haven’t talked about it yet.”
IF MIKE LEAKE can recover from the flu that knocked him out of his scheduled start Wednesday and faces the Indians Thursday, he’ll face a former teammate from Arizona State University, Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is hitting .284 with 10 homers and 40 RBI.
“You always look forward to facing somebody you played with in college,” said Leake. “I played with him two years. He started at Kentucky but had some issues and came to ASU. He played outfield at ASU. It’s fun to face your old teammates, but it’s hard to face them because you don’t want to get them out or embarrass them. But you have to try.”
APPARENTLY, athletic trainers who work with the Cincinnati Reds are in demand because of all the work that comes their way when they’re with the Reds.
Three of the four athletic trainers who will serve at this year’s All-Star game have Reds backgrounds.
Current Reds head athletic trainer Paul Lessard will be one of two on the National League medical staff. Both athletic trainers for the American League once served as assistants with the Reds — Lonnie Soloff of the Cleveland Indians and Nick Kenney of the Kansas City Royals, both now head trainers.
WHEN DELTA Airlines misplaced my luggage this week on a trip from Charlotte, it reminded me of a Tommy Lasorda luggage story.
He said he once went to an airport check-in counter and said, “I want to buy a ticket to Philadelphia, but I want my luggage sent to Pittsburgh”
The agent said he couldn’t do that and Lasorda said, “Why not, you did it last time and I didn’t even ask.”
A COLUMBUS WRITER, thinking that because Joey Votto is from Canada, he has to be a hockey fan. Votto isn’t.
“What do you think about the Blue Jackets?” the writer asked?
“Why, are they not doing well?” said Votto, who had no idea that the Blue Jackets finished last this year in the Central Division.
When the guy told him, Votto said with a smile, “Then get ‘em out of Columbus.”
AS ONE WHO despises the American League’s designated hitter rule, I laughed out loud when I ran across a quote about the DH from former pitcher/baseball philosopher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who pitched in both leagues. Said Lee, “The DH has reduced the duties of American League managers to filling out and hanging up the day’s starting lineup and making certain all the players make it on time to the airport.”
THE CLEVELAND INDIANS acquired pitcher Esmil Rogers from the Colorado Rockies for cash considerations Rogers, a converted shortstop is now a pitcher and when asked if he could hit, her said, “Oh, yeah. I hit .300 for three years in the Dominican — .100 the first year, .100 the second year and .100 the third year.” If he can’t pitch he can at least do stand-up comedy.
LAST CALL for Ask Hal questions for this Sunday’s DDN. Send them now (or a little later, but before Friday morning) to email@example.com.Tweet