Blue Jays set rotation for first 3 spring games

Lawrence to start opener, with Latos, Oberholtzer due for split-squad matchups Sunday

Blue Jays set rotation for first 3 spring games

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Mat Latos, one of the most intriguing arms in camp, will pitch when the Blue Jays play their Grapefruit League home opener Sunday against the Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, manager John Gibbons said Thursday.

Latos was signed to a Minor League contract just a week ago. With the Padres and Reds from 2009-14, he went 60-45 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP. He's still just 29, but he has battled injuries and ineffectiveness the last two seasons with the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox and Nationals.

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"Hey, he's got a good arm," Gibbons said. "Big breaking stuff. He's such a big guy (6-foot-6, 245 pounds). I guarantee it's not a comfortable at-bat because he's coming at you all arms and legs. He's been around, he's had some success. Maybe there's a spot for him somehow. If he can get back to where he was, that would be really nice. He's been successful. He was really considered one of the top guys out there."

Right-hander Casey Lawrence will start against the Braves on Saturday at Champion Stadium. The Blue Jays have a split-squad contest Sunday with Latos following Joe Biagini at home and non-roster left-hander Brett Oberholtzer getting the assignment against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.

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Spring Training has three phases: Can't wait for it to start, can't wait for the games to start and can't wait for the regular season to start. Gibbons said he's definitely at the second stage.

"It gets a little monotonous day after day," he admitted. "The players are ready to start going, too. Especially the younger guys. They want to show us something."

Wins and losses won't be the focus, however, especially since the Blue Jays are a veteran team that made it as far as the American League Championship Series in 2016.

"Any time you're competing, you want to win the game," Gibbons said. "But there are so many factors. You're trying to look at different players. Usually the teams with the best records have the best Minor League teams because young guys come in at the end when the games are decided.

"You always play to win, but you don't get caught up in that. You're looking at different guys. You've got a lot of veteran guys you're counting on when the season starts. You hope they play well down here, but they're getting ready for the season. So you don't put a lot of stock in that. But you don't want to come out and get pounded every day, either.

Worth noting

• The Blue Jays announced Thursday that enhanced security procedures will be in place for all Spring Training games at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. In accordance with policies established by Major League Baseball, all fans entering the park will be required to pass through metal detectors, which will be installed at all gates and entrances. Metal-detecting wands may also be used as a followup measure.

• The Blue Jays also announced that Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is now a smoke-free facility.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.