Dodgers still looking for value from new pitchers

LOS ANGELES -- With 47 games left in the regular season and possibly a postseason in October, it’s too early to definitively judge the results of the complicated three-team, 13-player trade the Los Angeles Dodgers executed with the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins to send four pitchers west.

But it’s fair to say Dodgers fans aren’t too excited about it at the moment.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals have gotten an immediate bump from the acquisitions of ace-level starters David Price and Johnny Cueto, pitchers the Dodgers scouted and discussed with their former teams, while the Dodgers have gotten mostly aggravation watching the four pitchers they acquired.

Mat Latos heard his share of boos in his second Dodger Stadium start Thursday after he allowed five runs and couldn’t make his way through the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ 10-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, one of his three former teams.

“I’m healthy. The ball’s coming out of my hand good. It’s just a matter of stringing together pitches and stringing together innings,” Latos said. “It’s what I’m having trouble doing right now.”

The Dodgers have gotten few positive returns so far from the four pitchers they landed for a bushel of fringe prospects and expensive Cuban signee Hector Olivera: Latos has a 6.74 ERA as a Dodger. Alex Wood, who makes his third start Friday night, has a 5.56 ERA as a Dodger. Relievers Jim Johnson (23.14 ERA) and Luis Avilan (7.20 ERA) haven’t done much to stabilize the Dodgers’ shaky bullpen.

It has become a familiar, numbing pattern. When a Dodgers starter other than Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke starts, it is a short outing followed by poor middle relief. After Latos left, Avilan, Pedro Baez and J.P. Howell all added a bit of gasoline to the brush fire. In the past six games, the Dodgers’ No. 3 through 5 starters have averaged 4 2/3 innings and have a 9.64 ERA.

The season is far from over, however, and the Dodgers still think they have a deeper rotation than they did before Latos and Wood arrived. They hope the bullpen manages to pull it together.

And they still have some flexibility if things don’t change. Latos already has allowed five runs or more in two of his Dodgers starts. In 16 starts this season, Mike Bolsinger allowed as many as five runs just once. Bolsinger remains in the Dodgers’ system, pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, and is only a phone call away. But for now, the Dodgers figure to stick with Latos and the rest of the back-end starters.

“We’re going to keep going. I don’t know what you want me to say,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Alex has thrown the ball fine, Brett [Anderson] has been throwing the ball good all year long. Mat’s had a couple bad starts back-to-back, so we’ll just keep working and go forward.”

Latos suspects he has become overly enamored of his off-speed pitches. In 2009, his first season, he threw four-seam fastballs roughly two-thirds of the time, a bit more than he is throwing it in 2015, roughly 64 percent of the time. The emergence of his split-finger pitch has been the main change in his repertoire. His split is even slower than his changeup.

He was asked if the soft-stuff approach was part of the Dodgers’ game plan.

“Yeah,” he scoffed, “part of the game plan’s always been going out there and giving up a bunch of runs. Honestly, I can’t tell you. I’ve got to go look at a couple years ago, whenever I was more fastball-dominant, throwing more fastballs locating better. I feel like I’ve gotten away from that and started throwing a bunch more off-speed.”

Latos took a few shots at the Reds after they traded him to the Marlins. In a spring training interview with Fox Sports, Latos complained that Reds trainers rushed him back from an injury and that the clubhouse lacked leadership after the retirement of Scott Rolen. The Reds’ players responded to Latos’ comments.

After Thursday’s game, neither side wanted to rehash the bad blood. Latos would say only that he had “turned the page.”

“Anybody can say what they want to say. He said it. It’s over with,” said Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. “We came out here and he pitched. We did a good job of hitting him around a little bit. He’s just like any other pitcher.”

Right now he is, but that wasn’t part of the Dodgers’ plan.