Mat Latos: I like to keep it loose and keep it real around the clubhouse. Everyone says baseball is serious, especially in the major leagues. (Brian and Marcus) Giles likes to play tricks on other people and they used to get (Mike) Cameron in the clubhouse a lot.
I don't like to keep a serious face all the time. When I am on the mound – then it is a serious face. In the clubhouse you have to keep it loose and make somebody laugh. If I am the clubhouse clown, so be it. I will take that under my belt. I am not ashamed to be that.
Did you feel like you were comfortable on mound throughout the year?
Mat Latos: I felt comfortable on the mound. I wasn't really used to the 2,000-plus fans. I was pitching on Thirsty Thursday's, which was pretty cool. I got the big stands – I wish my velocity was a little better but I felt comfortable.
We talked about your knuckle-changeup being a go-to pitch but now you are going with a more conventional straight changeup. How is it coming along?
Mat Latos: The straight change is a natural pitch. I threw it for years and years and then got the knuckle changeup and completely dropped it. It is not hard to throw at all. It is the same arm action but a different grip.
I still have the knuckle changeup and that could be my out pitch in 0-2 or 1-2. My straight change will be more of a 0-1 count or get over for a strike pitch. It is something to work on so I have a "changeup" instead of one day a splitter, one day a forkball and another day a knuckle curve. I have a changeup.
One of the issues with it early on seemed to be a little less command while you were feeling it out. How can you get it to the stage where you can throw it in any count?
Mat Latos: I throw it in the pen a lot. I threw them low and am not leaving them up so that is a real good thing. I am trying not to choke the heck out of it so it doesn't stay up or get beaten in the dirt at 55 feet. Confidence-wise, the last few starts I threw it more.
Talk about working with Luis Martinez before he was moved up to Fort Wayne.
Mat Latos: Luis was my main catcher early on. He is very verbal. He helps you out when you are on the mound. You don't want a catcher that just sits there with his glove up if you lack confidence or are having a bad outing.
He is very verbal, and boosts confidence when you need it. He is like a wall behind the plate. Nothing gets by him. He is solid.
Does he have to come out to you and tell you the truth – ‘you can't throw that pitch anymore. It isn't doing what you want.'
Mat Latos: Oh yea. I told him, ‘If it is not working just let me know. It is not going to hurt my feelings.'
Pitchers have off-days. You may not hit on the curveball but you will hit on the fastball. He has the confidence to come out and say, ‘I just don't think that is going to work today. Let's try and work on this.'
Did you meet your expectations in Eugene?
Mat Latos: Not quite – nowhere even near to be honest. Early on, I didn't throw as much as I should have so the velocity wasn't really there. I was sitting between 92 and 93, which is not bad, but it wasn't me. In college I was 95 to 97. I would have been a lot more comfortable on the mound if the velocity was up there. Everything else falls into place.
You have your own name written on the underside of your cap. Some people might say that was conceited, do you think your famous? What is the real story?
Mat Latos: I lost a bet back in eighth grade when I was on a traveling team for the Brevard County Braves. I lost a bet with one of my good buddies on the team and he said I had to sign my hat like I was some big All-Star. I signed my hat and have been doing it ever since eighth grade.
People can call me this or that – a lot of people judge a book by its cover. They judge the outside instead of the inside. If people would see the inside of my hat they would think I was cocky or conceited but if they talk to me and have a conversation with me they would think differently. I am laid-back and a goof ball. I am serious when it counts but absolutely hilarious when it is not.
Does that make you superstitious too – the signing of the hat?
Mat Latos: You could say that. We won seven National Championships when we were younger and in Cooperstown and all that. I had it signed since then, but I guess you can't call it superstitious because in high school we didn't have a very good team. It was my personal thing for myself.
I don't touch the line – can't touch the foul line when I go on and off the field. I guess there is some superstitious.