Latos sets the bar high

It had been a long wait, but Mat Latos' first full season is underway with the Fort Wayne Wizards. High expectations have surrounded the former draft-and-follow, but he says he is harder on himself than anyone else ever could be.

What was the off-season like for you, and what did you accomplish?

Mat Latos: Cardio mostly. I did a lot of running. Long toss every now and then, threw a couple of bullpens – four or five – did a lot of fishing, went out of town for a couple of trips.

You come back and get stuck in extended for a bit, was there something you wanted to work on before heading to Fort Wayne?

Mat Latos: Keeping the ball down. Keep the ball low, develop the changeup a little more than where it is at now and that is basically it.

How is that pitch coming along, especially since you had not thrown it consistently in a while?

Mat Latos: I dropped it and started throwing a different changeup, but I am starting to come back into it and it is looking fine. It is down in the zone. I haven't really been leaving them up and the arm speed looks good. I think it is good to go.

I am going with the straight change; it will help me out in the long run instead of having something that is out of the ordinary. I need to get with (Trevor) Hoffman – maybe he can give me some pointers. I would not mind that at all.

When I was out in Eugene and saw you pitch, you ranged from 91 to 95 MPH with your fastball and you were searching for a little more consistency with the speed. Do you feel like the off-season gave you a little more velocity back?

Mat Latos: It definitely did. I took some time off to let the arm heal up. Coming out from a year at JuCo and going to Eugene and throwing – basically from January through October with Instructs full tilt.

I took a couple of months off and am back into it and the arm is feeling really good. I am not looking to sit 98-100. I am going to sit where I feel comfortable and work off my changeup. The fastball will be my number one priority but the rest will fall into place.

There has been some talk of you potentially being a closer one day – and it is just rumors right now.

Mat Latos: That would be fine. The only problem I see is whoever has that role when (Trevor) Hoffman leaves will have some pretty big shoes to fill. I would have no problem with it. I would sure as hell give it a shot.

You are a competitive guy by nature. How difficult would it be as a starter right now to change it and give your all over one inning?

Mat Latos: Coming out whenever you are starting, you have to have more of a long-term plan.

Walking in during a save situation as a closer, your plan has to be 1-2-3. End the game, shut it down – don't let anything else affect you and do your job. I only closed one game in my game in my career – in high school.

I would say that I get more pumped closing because I love the game being on the line and me coming out and shutting it down. I would not have a problem with the adjustments. The big thing is being ready. That is the only bad part about closing – being ready and up to it. It would be interesting and I would have no problem with it.

You mentioned upping the conditioning this off-season for a full season, but what would make for a successful 2008 season?

Mat Latos: To be honest, I can't give you an answer. I am too hard on myself sometimes. An average year would be a decent ERA for where I am at. The wins and losses I could care less as long as my ERA and walks are down. The ERA and walks are my ultimate goal for any season. I could go 0-18 for all I care, as long as I have a 2.00 ERA with 11 walks or so.

The strikeouts are going to be there. Mixing pitches – I should have a challenge here with Fort Wayne and I am looking forward to it.

You did not pitch past the fifth inning last year. Obviously, pitch counts get up pretty quickly, especially with strikeouts. How do you get to the point where you can go longer in a game?

Mat Latos: Working in the bullpen and keeping the ball low. This year, I am not looking to break any records with strikeouts. I am not trying to strike every guy out.

Were you last year?

Mat Latos: I was – it was fun, but pitch counts were up.

This year, I am looking to go six or seven innings. I will take 14 ground balls over 14 strikeouts any day. Last I remember, it takes three strikes to strike a batter out and you can get a first-pitch ground ball any day. Keep my pitch count down and try and hit my spots and control the game.

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