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Latos not great, but better in final spring start

Chicago White Sox starter Mat Latos works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game Friday, April 1, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

SAN DIEGO — Mat Latos pitched four scoreless innings and then ran into a dud of a fifth in the White Sox’ 5-3 exhibition victory over the San Diego Padres Friday night at Petco Park.

All in all, the outing was the best of his three this spring, and while not pristine, both he and Sox manager Robin Ventura came away with an OK feeling about it.

“This is the best he’s pitched this spring,” Ventura said. “Getting out of Arizona, getting here, crank it up a bit more. He ran into a little bit there in the fifth but this is the best he’s pitched, so it’s encouraging. I thought he pitched well.”

Latos struck out Derek Norris to leave two runners stranded in the first. He pitched a perfect second and struck out two in a scoreless third. In the fourth, he gave up two-out hits to Yangervis Solarte (double) and Alexei Ramirez (single) but walked off unscathed when Ramirez got caught between first and second and Solarte was thrown out by second baseman Brett Lawrie trying to score.

In the fifth, Latos sandwiched walks around an infield single, then gave up a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. With his pitch count at 69, about where the Sox wanted him to finish, Ventura pulled him in favor of Jake Petricka. The Padres scored two more runs, one on a bases loaded walk by Petricka (who walked two in the inning), with both runs charged to Latos.

Latos’ final line looked like this: 4 1/3 innings, three runs, five hits, three walks, three strikeouts.

“(Norris’ strikeout) was kind of a momentum switch for me, it kicked it into another gear and really felt like I found a good rhythm, found a good landing, good footing and made some good pitches there,” Latos said. “In the fifth inning I started to nibble for some reason, just tried to be a little too perfect, let’s try and hit the corners instead of going right at them.”

Latos felt pleased with his fastball command. Ventura said commanding his offspeed stuff will be key.

“I threw a couple, didn’t throw very many,” Latos said. “Threw a couple splits today and sliders.

“The more you can throw for strikes the more you can hopefully throw them off and make good pitches and beat them with the fastball, beat them with the slider,” Latos said.

The Sox signed Latos in February for one year and $3 million. The only right-hander in the starting rotation, he is lined up to pitch the fourth game of the season Thursday afternoon in Oakland.

His frame of mind going in to the season is “very good.”

“Today I feel like things started clicking, I feel comfortable on the mound,” he said. “I threw a couple of splits for strikes, threw a couple changeups for strikes, bunch of sliders for strikes, two-seamers, four-seamers … I felt really good about today even though the fifth inning kind of got away.”

Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer off Kevin Quackenbush in the fourth, his fifth of spring and the Sox’ 50th. Jimmy Rollins was on base with a leadoff single. Todd Frazier tripled and scored on Melky Cabrera’s groundout.

Jerry Sands, who made the team as the 25th man, Ventura said before the game, singled in J.B. Shuck from second base to break a 3-all tie in the eighth.