When he spoke to reporters before tonight's series finale with the New York Mets, Washington Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker confirmed reports which said the Nats signed veteran right-hander Mat Latos.
Latos, 28, was released on June 17th, after he went (6-2) in 11 starts for the Chicago White Sox, with a 4.62 ERA and a 5.55 FIP in 60 ⅓ IP over which he walked 25 (3.73 BB/9) and struck out 32 (4.77 K/9) with a .264/.338/.451 line against.
"It gives up some depth," Baker said when asked about the signing, "one of the same reasons we brought in Bronson [Arroyo], who was hurt and who's pitching again now.
"That gives us some depth in case something happens to someone, or if nothing else, September is right around the corner.
"So I think Matt is trying to get in the best shape possible and so he's going to get in shape first, in tip-top shape, which I asked him to do over the winter when I was talking to him about possibly signing him then.
"Cause I'm big on guys getting in shape because you perform better, your mind is clear and it just looks better."
When the Nationals faced Latos during their three-game visit to Chicago this month, they knocked the right-hander around, scoring six runs on five hits and four walks in just 4 ⅓ innings. He was released after that start.
So what did Baker see in U.S. Cellular Field that made him feel Latos has something left?
"I know there's more in there and he's not old and he's not hurt anymore," he said. " So there's more in there and I've seen it. I'm not the one who signed him, but I'm the one that they asked would it be worth the chance.
"The organization came to me about it. He was 14-4 one year for me, 13-4 or whatever it was, 14-something another year for me, and so I don't think... how old is Latos? 28? That's nothing. He hasn't even reached it yet, it's up to him though to try to bust it and get back."
The two have history, of course, with Latos pitching for Baker when the skipper was on the bench in Cincinnati in his last two seasons with the Reds.
So how was their relationship there? Baker was asked this afternoon.
"We had a good relationship," he said. "I had to like, chastise him... often. But we had a good relationship.
"Whatever I did was for his own [good] evidently, cause like I said, he was 14-4 or whatever he was after that. So, I could almost handle everybody.
"Some guys you've got to kick them in the butt, some guys you've got to pat them on the back, some guys you have to leave them alone. That's what being a teacher and a coach is and what makes the world go around, everybody is not the same."
Baker said he wasn't sure what caused Latos to "fall apart" before his release.
"When they released him, he was still what was he, 5-2? "They didn't give him a whole bunch of time to fall apart," Baker said.
"Maybe they didn't believe what they were seeing in the victories that preceded us getting there. I don't know, I can't speak for another man, but I just thought it was a bit premature to release him at that time."
Latos will reportedly head to Triple-A Syracuse to try to get back in shape for when/if an opportunity arises.