Latos feeling healthy, enjoying spring season

Righty set for Cactus League debut as he battles for rotation spot

March 21st, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- White Sox right-hander Mat Latos describes Spring Training as the first one he's excited to be part of "in a long time." And there's a reason behind that rationale for the seven-year veteran.

"I guess just me actually being healthy, feeling healthy, feeling strong," Latos said. "Kind of mentally drained through the season last year and just got myself on the right track. I was real excited to get here.

"You know, so far everything has been fun. The guys have been great from top to bottom. Just enjoying my time."

Latos has battled left knee and right elbow issues over a couple of rough seasons, but he has been building and preparing in side sessions and B games for his Cactus League debut on Tuesday against the Giants. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has talked about Latos, who has the edge for the team's final rotation spot, getting better with each trip to the mound.

"We've kind of made it to where there's a daily challenge as far as what we want to do," Latos said. "So far we've been able to do the challenge, complete it and then everything we've done so far has progressed.

"There's always the same focus, but different things here and there: certain ideas that we look to accomplish along with the main focus. We've been able to incorporate something new almost every time. We've been able to go about it and take it into games."

Better days ahead for Garcia

Avisail Garcia not only has been nursing a bruised right wrist, suffered when stepping on the baseball and falling during Saturday's game against the Dodgers, but he underwent a root canal on Monday. Manager Robin Ventura expects him back in action Tuesday against the Giants.

"Hopefully something doesn't happen to him tomorrow and he'll be able to play," Ventura said.

Rodon works it all

Allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings wasn't exactly Carlos Rodon's design during his Monday morning start as part of a Minor League game on the back fields of Camelback Ranch. But Rodon took a positive approach away from his outing.

"It's good to see those guys can hit," Rodon said with a wry smile, after striking out six and walking four, throwing 53 of his 89 pitches for strikes. "That's awesome. You just go out there and work on that stuff. That's how you gotta take it.

"Fastball command was not good, although I'll take some positives out of it, some good changeups out of there. Worked on the slider a little bit, got it back again."

The morning session was work directed, as Cooper talked about putting guys on first base in the controlled game specifically to practice Rodon's pickoff move.

"Looking for more strikes, be more aggressive," Cooper said. "With Carlos, we're trying to get better at the first three pitches to get contact and/or ahead in the count because if we do that, we lessen walks.

"If we lessen walks there will be more balls in play, more balls we can catch. There might be some hits involved, but the bottom line is if he can get ahead and get contact early."

Defending their honor

There were no fewer than five top-notch defensive plays for the White Sox during Monday's 9-4 loss to the Indians.

Austin Jackson and Jerry Sands both made running, over-the-shoulder catches to take away extra-base hits from Jesus Aguilar and Taylor Naquin. Brett Lawrie robbed Michael Brantley with a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder in short right field to start the fourth, while Carlos Sanchez did the same at third against Yan Gomes to open the sixth. Jacob May completed the effort with a diving catch in right-center to take extra bases from Erik Gonzalez in the seventh.

They Said It

"I like the combination of the [four] people I have at those positions: Lawrie, Sanchez, [Jimmy] Rollins, [Tyler] Saladino." Ventura, after admitting he has picked a starting shortstop but declining to name him.

"I'm not thinking of him as a reliever at all. We didn't draft him where we drafted him to be a reliever." Cooper on Carson Fulmer.