Timetable could have Latos ready for Opening Day

Timetable could have Latos ready for Opening Day

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Reds starter Mat Latos is progressing well enough from recent surgeries on his right elbow and left knee that he could be ready to open the season on the big league roster, manager Bryan Price said Sunday.

According to the first-year skipper, Latos would have to throw one more bullpen session, live batting practice and make four spring starts to build up enough arm strength to be ready for Opening Day.

Considering the Reds open at home against the Cardinals on March 31, the time frame is pretty tight.

"With the schedule we have written, there's time to do all that, but everything would have to go right," Price said. "Right now, it's likely he'll have one more bullpen and pitch to live hitters before we evaluate."

Latos was 14-7 with a 3.16 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 210 2/3 innings last season, but he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow this past October. Although his arm was ready before Spring Training, Latos tore the meniscus in his left knee throwing in the bullpen the week the team reported to camp, requiring another round of surgery.

Price said Latos had a good bullpen session Saturday, the right-hander's third since returning from rehabbing the knee, and was encouraged by the 26-year-old's progress.

"It's been terrific," Price said. "He's still working real hard on the strength of his leg and still doing all the work he needs on his elbow.

"He looks strong. There are no inhibitions to his throwing. He's throwing the ball very hard. I don't see any reason not to be optimistic that he'll be able to follow his regimen all the way up to his first start."

Price said it's essential that Latos be able to build up to at least 90 pitches before he can open the regular season. Price also said he hasn't informed Latos when he might make his first spring start.

"He's going to have to make a minimum of four starts to get his pitch count up high enough to pitch in a big league game," Price said. "I say that because as much as it may not seem that innings are important in April, the innings our starters don't pitch, our relievers do. I think 90 pitches for Mat is reasonable. That gives him a chance to throw six innings comfortably and not tax our bullpen."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.