CINCINNATI — Mat Latos held a plastic bowl of glop in front of him, spooning it into his mouth with a plastic spoon as he sat in front of his dressing cubicle in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse.
"It’s good, really good," said Latos, explaining that it was a combination of spicy sausage, chicken and rice.
But that’s about the only he thing he thought was "good, really good," other than the fact, "I’m still here, hanging around the clubhouse with the guys."
Latos is not happy because he believes he is ready to pitch in a major-league game but the Reds want him to make one more minor-league rehab start before sliding him back into the rotation, from where he has been absent since the first day of spring training.
Four times during a three-minute, 49-second interview before Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Latos said, "I’m just a puppet on a string." That would have to be one hefty string to dangle the 6-foot-6, 245-pound right handed pitcher.
"I’m perfectly fine," he said, spooning another mouthful. "It is pretty bogus that I have to go on another rehab assignment. It is what it is. I don’t make the decisions around here and I’m a puppet on a string, pretty much."
Latos made a rehab start Wednesday for the Class AAA Louisville Bats in Lehigh Valley (N.Y.) and the Reds wanted him to throw six or seven innings or 90 to 100 pitches. After his 67th pitch, the first pitch of the sixth inning, he suffered a calf cramp and was removed.
Because of that, the Reds want him to make one more rehab start in the minors to stretch him out, get him to the seventh inning or up to 100 pitches.
"When the cramp happened it was minor," he said. "They took me out as a precaution. I didn’t want to come out.
"I just get told what I need to do and I do what I’m told to do," he said. "I can tell you right now that’s about as healthy as I’ve been and I could pitch in a (major league) game today, if I had to pitch in one. I can’t do anything about it.
"If the cramped calf is the reason I’m going to make another rehab start, well, sure," he said. "Without the cramp, I could have gone 90 pitches, yes, I could have. Like I said, I’m a puppet on a string and I do what they want me to do."
When it was mentioned that he sounded, "A bit cynical about the whole thing," Latos said, "That’s for him (manager Bryan Price) to tell you the real reason or whatever it is."
For the most part, that’s Mat Latos being Mat Latos and there is nothing sinister or clandestine behind the decision, as Price patiently explained.
"Barring any issues with the rest of our rotation, we are going to get Latos all the way stretched out," said Price. "I know that he feels that he is ready to help us, and I appreciate that, but we are going to ask him when he is activated to be able to do what the rest of our guys are going, like pitch into the later innings.
"I’d like to get him stretched out to that 90 to or 100 pitches before we activate him," Price added. Latos will pitch in some minor-league game Monday and Price added, "I feel I am doing what is in his and our best interests."
Latos underwent arthroscopic knee surgery the first week of spring training and just when it seeme he was ready to begin pitching he suffered an elbow injury.
"I feel fine and during my start (Wednesday) I mixed in a lot of two-seamers and the velocity was 90 to 94," he said. "And when I’m throwing 86 to 90 miles an hour sliders that says a lot about how I feel. The change-up was harder than what it normally is and it was a lot better. The curveball was fine.
"I’m fine, I’m perfectly fine," he added. "The calf is not an issue. I’m a puppet on a string and I can’t do much about it. I can sit here and smile and tell you guys what you want to hear all day long."
Latos scooped another helping of his Cajun soup and was asked if he tried to argue to make his next start with the Reds and he said, "There would be no point. They have their mind made up over what’s going on, or what didn’t go on. I’ll go down and throw 100 fastballs, call it a day, come back up here and maybe I can get activated next time."