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Mat Latos begins what Dodgers hope will be a big final two months

Dodgers starting pitcher Mat Latos throws to the plate during the first inning against the Angels.

Dodgers starting pitcher Mat Latos throws to the plate during the first inning against the Angels.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Understand this, Mat Latos is a big man. He’s listed at 6 feet 6 and 245 pounds, though in truth he seems larger.

The Dodgers, of course, are hoping he will be huge the last two months of the season. Their rotation has been missing two regulars -- Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu -- almost the entire year.

And now at the nonwaiver trade deadline, it’s been fortified with the addition of Latos and Alex Wood.

Latos made his Dodgers debut Sunday afternoon, throwing six strong innings. He gave up one run on four hits and a walk. He did not get the win and was overshadowed by Andre Ethier’s two home runs, but the Dodgers had to like their first look at the right-hander from Miami.

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“Mat was really good,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “I liked the way he looked. Kind of what we’ve seen in the past -- a guy that’s aggressive. You don’t see any fear in him at all. He’s attacking guys. It doesn’t matter if it’s [Mike] Trout or [Albert] Pujols. A guy that’s under control.”

The trade came down Thursday, but Latos did not arrive in Los Angeles until Saturday. He joined his new team during the game and started the next day against the Angels.

“I’m just glad I didn’t get booed like I did in Miami my first start,” Latos said. “I made it past two-thirds of an inning and I didn’t give up seven runs.

“I was nervous. I was real nervous when I woke up this morning. I was nauseous. I didn’t eat much. I think I ate a banana and a Red Bull.”

Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was difficult to argue with the results. That’s a large man, throwing from on high and mixing his pitches.

“It’s just the angle that he’s throwing it,” said catcher Yasmani Grandal. “He’s a big guy and his arm slot is way over the top. Makes it tough. I’ve hit against him. I kind of know what it is that he’s got.

“He definitely has a lot of good movement, especially on the splitter he’s been throwing. He throws a straight change and he throws a splitter. He threw pretty good ones today. Kind of looks like the Zack Greinke changeup, except way slower.”

Thus far this has been a tale of two seasons for Latos. Trouble did not stop with him in Miami with that first start. In his first nine games this season, he was 1-4 with a 6.12 earned-run average. Then he was placed on the disabled list with an inflamed left knee. He had it drained and worked on strengthening his leg. In his eight games since returning from the DL, he is 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA.

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New knee, new pitcher.

“Ten times better,” Latos said. “They had to drain it. I got with the right people. They put me on the right program and I’ve stuck with it. I think the results have showed.

“Imagine having a lot of fluid in your knee, a lot of pain. That’s my landing foot, so I’m putting all my weight shifted onto that knee. It’s allowed me to clear over my front side and drive the ball down. My velocity has gone up.”

The Dodgers liked the results in Miami when he returned from the disabled list. He looked more like the guy with the San Diego Padres who was once expected to become a front-of-the-rotation starter.

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Now he’s healthy and looking for a big final two months.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I loved my time in Miami … [but] I’m excited to be here. This is a big organization. I had a lot of people text me, like, ‘Dude, you’re going to the Dodgers! It’s crazy.’ I’m thankful to be here. That’s all I can say.”


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