Latos optimistic after successful simulated game

Recovering from elbow procedure, right-hander on track for Grapefruit debut Friday

Latos optimistic after successful simulated game

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- To Mat Latos, it didn't matter if it was on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., or on the mound at Tradition Field. Just facing hitters was a nice starting point for the Marlins right-hander.

Latos threw two innings on Monday morning in a simulated game at Miami's spring complex, and he's progressing toward making his Grapefruit League debut, which the Marlins announced will be on Friday vs. the Cardinals.

Initially, Latos was scheduled to throw two innings in the Marlins' Grapefruit League game on Monday against the Mets at Tradition Field. But the pitcher, who is recovering from stem cell surgery on his right elbow in mid-October, is being eased into game action. So rather than rush anything, David Phelps was given Monday's start.

"Everything feels real good, knock on wood," Latos said. "Take it over to the next one."

In the simulated game, Latos faced some Miami regulars who didn't make the trip to Port St. Lucie. Among the batters he faced were Dee Gordon and Ichiro Suzuki.

"I let everything go," Latos said. "I'm just working on some stuff. I threw some pitches I wouldn't normally to [certain] hitters. Like against the leadoff guy, I'm not going to go 0-2 and throw my 'out pitch' right away. I'm going to try and stick with the fastball as much as possible."

Latos noted he threw some changeups to right-handed hitters that he normally wouldn't in the regular season.

Physically, Latos feels fine. But his offseason routine was set back a little bit due to the stem cell procedure shortly after the season ended.

"It wasn't anything major or anything that was season-altering," Latos said. "It was more of a precaution, and it seems to help. I feel real good. It just pushed me back on my throwing program just a little bit."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.