Pitching with Mat Latos

Mat Latos and manager Greg Riddoch

Mat Latos kicked off the 2007 MLB Draft, despite being credited to the 2006 haul. The talented right-hander immediately became one of the top prospects in the system – and he has yet to play a game professionally. We caught up with Latos to learn the intricacies of his pitches, which he described in great detail.

Mat, congratulations on signing. I imagine you are pretty relieved the process is over?

Mat Latos: It is great. I got to sign and now I can just go play. This is what it is all about.

Have the Padres discussed the expectations they have for you and where they plan on putting you and what is it that you most look forward to now that you start your professional career?

Mat Latos: They said I will be in Eugene, Oregon (he has since arrived). I have heard about it. It will be my second stop after minicamp in Arizona.

Moving up – what more would you want to look forward to. You are not going to play minor league baseball, you want to play pro.

When you spoke with John Conniff one of the things you mentioned was shelving the slider in favor of the changeup so you could explicitly work on that pitch. How is it that you were able to do that and what was the benefit?

Mat Latos: I took it upon myself to take away my slider. I threw my slider in bullpens but I really didn't want to work on it. My slider comes naturally because of my arm action and the way I throw. I just have to have my wrist turned over on the ball – it is as if I am throwing a fastball but my hand is to the side. Me taking that away really couldn't hurt me because it is a natural motion with the way I throw.

Doing that and having to rely just on my changeup – I must have thrown a 1,000 changeups my junior year for fall just alone to practice on it. Now, I have it to where I can control it and put it anywhere I want.

When I talked to Grady Fuson and Chief Gayton they both mentioned that the changeup was spiked. What does that mean?

Mat Latos: You know how Curt Schilling's split-finger (fastball) just drops? It looks like a fastball and then just drops? It is more like that. My index finger is bent like how you would hold a knuckleball. It is the only finger that is bent and it is dug into one of the laces. So it is spiked but it is a changeup.

I was shown a grip similar to that on the side of the ball but not really like it and I just gradually threw it one day and liked it. I started getting comfortable throwing it and just practiced with it till you get used to it.

Now that you are entering professional baseball, what is it that you feel you have to work on to continue moving up the ladder?

Mat Latos: If I were to work on anything to move up it would be age and maturity from a baseball perspective. Maturing to the game the way a professional handles a game and stuff like that. This isn't like high school and a seven-inning game or like college. This is professional ball and a career now. Maturity in the baseball aspect of how to handle myself off the field and on the field – the responsibility of that being a career and not more of a game.

After pitching a full season of junior college baseball, are you at all concerned about the stress on your arm or your stamina when August rolls around?

Mat Latos: Not really. BCC did a really good job – the pitching coach and manager – the pitch count was controlled. I think in my high school and college career I had two games over 100 pitches. I would go seven or eight innings at BCC and I had one game against Palm Beach game where I came out before that. In high school, I got taken out of one game.

I am always going to be around the plate. I can get ground balls. I can get fly balls. I will get hit around a little bit. I struck out a lot of people and don't walk many so that always helps, especially with how hard I throw and still being around the plate.

Talk a little bit about the action on your pitches. Does everything move into a left-hander or was the changeup a pitch that comes back in to the righty to off-set all the movement going left.

Mat Latos: I throw a two-seam but I throw that very rarely. I throw that when I try and go into right-handers. Lefties I try to get in on the hitters I face and throw four-seamers. My four-seam rises a little and I usually throw that in to lefties and my two-seamer to righties in on the hands to try and get a weak little ground ball or a pop up jam.

And how does the changeup and slider differ?

Mat Latos: The changeup is 12-6 with a drop action. The slider is more of a 2-8 or 2-7.

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