Mat Latos got knocked around by the Washington Nationals in his last start for the Chicago White Sox before the Sox released the 28-year-old right-hander in June.
He signed with Washington two weeks later, agreeing to a minor league deal.
Dusty Baker, who managed Latos for two seasons in Cincinnati in 2012-13, talked to reporters about taking a chance on the veteran starter after the Nationals brought Latos into the organization.
"I know there's more in there and he's not old and he's not hurt anymore," Baker 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."
Latos made three starts for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate (1.64 ERA, 0.87 FIP in 11 IP) and three at Triple-A Syracuse (1.06 ERA, 3.99 FIP in 17 IP).
Before tonight’s game, the veteran skipper talked to reporters about what Latos looks like when he’s right.
“Same thing as everybody else. He’s throwing downhill. He’s 6’5’’, 6’6’’, deception. As long as he’s throwing downhill, mixing his pitches well.
“At this point, probably, Latos knows himself better than [Wilson] Ramos knows him. So we’re depending on Latos to, when in doubt, go with what he knows and go with what the scouting report says along with the repertoire of pitches that he has.
“So, I mean, he went (14-4) one year, and (14-7), I think, another year, so he had his best years with me in Cincinnati.”
Baker said he hoped the fact that the Mets hadn’t seen Latos in a while might be to his advantage, when the Nats decided to go with the veteran right-hander over other options like Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez as Monday night’s starter.
In his first start for the Nationals, after two relief appearances, Latos impressed.
His four-seamer averaged 91.4 mph, but got up to 94.7, and he mixed in his two-seam fastballl, a cutter, splitter, curveball, slider and change.
After giving up a run in the first, with Jose Reyes doubling and scoring on a sac fly, he held the Mets off the board through the rest of his 4 1⁄3 innings on the mound before he was lifted with a hamstring issue in the fifth.
Baker told reporters after what ended up an 8-1 win that they didn’t think it was a serious injury.
“He’s fine,” Baker said.
“He had some hamstring tightness and it cramped up on him and that ball that Danny [Espinosa] had to come in for, he was going to jump for it, but he said he could tell it was tight. Cause when he walked the first batter, we were like, ‘Man, something’s not right,’ you know what I mean? So, he’ll be all right. Like I said, we got him out of there before something happened.”
While he was on the mound, Latos impressed his manager, and he also managed to hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second, taking a fastball from Rafael Montero to left field for his first of the season.
“He had good mound presence,” Baker said. “He was throwing downhill. He had a good cutter that jammed a couple guys. He had pretty good command with his fastball and his changeup.”
And he hit that home run.
“I’ve seen him hit before and I know he can hit and he thinks he can hit, which is half of hitting. I just told [Daniel] Murphy, I said, he’s a good hitter, he might hit one out of here,’ and I said, ‘When he does he’s going to do a lot of talking,’ and when he hit it out, Murph said, “Now, let him talk.’”
Baker was asked what the opportunity to start again meant for Latos.
“Well, I’ve told him, I said, ‘Hey, this is a chance for you to reestablish your value and get back on the board as a big league pitcher and try to find a home and not go from team to team to team because he has too good of stuff.
“We took a chance, and sent him down to get in great shape and he’s in much better shape now than when we saw him in Chicago. And he can pitch, it’s just a matter of him concentrating, which he did tonight, and going after hitters.”
• We talked about Latos’ outing, Daniel Murphy vs the Mets and more on Nats Nightly after the game: