LOS ANGELES -- So what's next for Padres rookie pitcher Mat Latos, who made his last start of the season on Saturday? Latos, the 21-year-old rookie who blazed a trail from the low Class A Midwest League to the Padres' starting rotation this season, will be shut down for the remainder of the campaign as the team has capped his innings at 123. Latos, who had never thrown more than 56 1/3 innings in a Minor League season, won't just disappear into the sunset, not to be seen until the start of Spring Training in February.
Instead, general manager Kevin Towers and manager Bud Black insist, the learning can continue even when the right-handed isn't pitching in Major League games. It was three weeks ago when Towers stated that when Latos was finished pitching this season, he would become a student of the game. Latos will also work extensively with pitching coach Darren Balsley on the side on a few mechanical things, grips on certain pitches, working with his stride, in order to get him ready for Spring Training. "He and Darren are going to work on things with his delivery. He's going to watch and observe," Black said. "It is a learning experience this season. He showed flashes of tremendous pitching, and he showed he needed to do things, like all pitchers, to improve his game." Balsley said on Sunday that the plan right now is for Latos to throw on the side or during a bullpen session two times per week. Latos finished the season with a 4-5 record and a 4.62 ERA in 10 starts with the Padres. He posted a 7.71 ERA over his final five starts after having a 2.43 in his first five. Latos allowed two earned runs and five walks over three innings of a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday. Latos started the season with Fort Wayne, going 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA before jumping Class A Lake Elsinore for Double-A San Antonio, where he was 5-1 with a 1.91 mark. "In Spring Training, we saw the typical mistakes a rookie would make the first time he pitched in the big leagues," Black said, "Overthrowing the fastball, trying way too hard to impress the coaches, throwing and not pitching, simply put. "Now I see him pitching. He's using three pitches, not overthrowing the fastball, and his emotions are under control for the most part." Now, Latos will watch from the side, which is fine with him, though he would rather be taking his turn every five days. He understands the caution the team is using and knows it's far better to be cautious now. "It's fine with me. I'm surprised they let me go this long," Latos said. "I'm grateful." The Padres haven't announced who will take Latos' spot in the rotation on Friday. The team can turn to an internal candidate like Edward Mujica or use someone from the Minor Leagues. Black will have an answer to that question during the upcoming week.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.