The time is almost here for Mat Latos to make the first climb up a mound this spring.
It is tentatively scheduled for this morning, and as manager Bryan Price said, using old-time baseball slang, “It is looking optimistic that he will be able to toe the slab (today).”
Mike Leake also is expected to throw in the bullpen and then start Friday. Latos is farther behind.
Health of pitchers continues to be the camp theme. Relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton is making progress but relief pitcher Sean Marshall remains tender and sore.
“Marshall has a lot of tightness, muscular stuff, in his shoulder,” said Price. “We’ve done all the tests and don’t see any reason for concern. But it is like we have handled Latos and Leake — there is no reason to step on the gas pedal with these guys. There is still plenty of time to have them all ready.”
There is more concern about Marshall because his shoulder bothered him most of last season. He didn’t undergo surgery and the shoulder remains an issue.
“Any time you have general fatigue and soreness in the same area there is concern,” said Price “We’ve done our homework and he was on a good off-season workout plan. We don’t see this as a catastrophic setback. We’re being conservative.”
Broxton report: Jonathan Broxton recently threw his third bullpen session and is up to 30 pitches.
“He looks great, like he is ready to go,” said Price. “We have to follow a throwing protocol to get him ready for games — live batting practice to face hitters, introduce the breaking ball. He has a ways to go for that, but his arm looks good and his delivery looks good. When he throws he doesn’t have any residual soreness.”
Hot hands: First baseman Neftali Soto is swinging the most sizzling bat of the spring — a team-best five-game hitting streak with doubles in each of his last three.
Until he grounded out in the first inning Tuesday against Kansas City, Jay Bruce had reached base five straight times — three hits, two walks.
Price was asked how close Bruce is to becoming an MVP-type player and he said, “Really close, and I wouldn’t be surprised at anything Jay accomplishes because he has the commitment and the mentality and the desire to be great.
“He is already a special defender and a special run producer with power and extra base hits. He is underappreciated as a runner because he can steal a few bases.”
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