SAN DIEGO — It wasn’t perfect, but Mat Latos took a few steps forward on Friday night. Even though he struggled in his fifth and final frame, Latos and the White Sox are encouraged by the effort.
Pitching for the last time before the regular season, Latos allowed three runs as the White Sox beat the San Diego Padres, 5-3, at Petco Park. Jose Abreu had a two-run homer, and Jerry Sands singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth.
Latos started with four scoreless innings but exited after he reached his pitch count with two walks and a base hit in the fifth. Latos yielded five hits with three walks in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three.
“This is the best he’s pitched this spring,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Getting out of Arizona, getting here, crank it up a bit more. He ran into a little bit (of trouble) there in the fifth, but this is the best he’s pitched so it’s encouraging.”
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Friday was the third and final exhibition start made by Latos, who pitched for the Padres from 2009 to 2011. With several upcoming opponents on the schedule, the White Sox opted to have Latos pitch in several simulated games before he made his spring debut on March 22.
The White Sox liked the quality of Latos’ spring work but hoped to see more as he had only completed 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts. On Wednesday, pitching coach Don Cooper said Latos needed “to climb.”
He quickly bounded upward in the first inning with a big strikeout of Derek Norris to strand runners on the corners. From there, Latos posted three more scoreless frames, though his defense got him out of the fourth inning with a nice play.
Latos, who next starts on Thursday at Oakland, threw strikes on 40 of 69 pitches.
“Very good,” Latos said. “Today I feel like things started clicking. I feel comfortable on the mound. I threw a couple of splits for strikes, threw a couple changeups for strikes, bunch of sliders for strikes, two-seamers, four-seamers … I felt really good about today even though the fifth inning kind of got away.”
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Latos got ahead 1-2 in the count to Melvin Upton Jr. before he walked him to start the fifth. Pinch hitter Christian Bethancourt singled, and Latos walked Jon Jay to load the bases. Latos exited after Cory Spangenberg’s sac fly cut the White Sox lead to 3-1.
Reliever Jake Petricka issued a pair of bases-loaded walks later in the inning to force in runners for whom Latos was responsible.
“Just tried to nibble a bit in the fifth inning,” Latos said. “Can’t get guys out when you’re walking them.”