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Toronto Blue Jays sign veteran pitcher Mat Latos to minor-league deal

Blue Jays sign Latos to minor-league deal

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Mat Latos knows earning a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays roster won’t be easy.

But he’s going to embrace the challenge this spring.

Toronto signed the 29-year-old right-hander to a minor-league deal Thursday with an invitation to major-league camp. He didn’t waste any time getting there, showing up later in the afternoon to meet teammates and begin his workouts.

“I’m happy to just be playing baseball, let’s be honest,” Latos said.

Latos, an eight-year veteran with 186 career starts under his belt, has struggled over the last two seasons while dealing with a knee injury. He played for five different major league teams over that span.

He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove his medial meniscus in 2014 and had trouble keeping the swelling down the following two seasons. It affected his range of motion and strength.

Latos, who went 14-7 with a 3.16 earned-run average with Cincinnati in 2013, started 11 games with the Chicago White Sox last year before being released. He spent the rest of the year with the Washington Nationals and was used primarily as a reliever, finishing with a 7-3 record and 4.89 ERA.

After pushing his knee to the limit in his off-season training, Latos said he’s ready for 2017.

“I’ve had a rough go at it for the past two years and there’s a lot of earning that needs to be done,” he said. “It’s not just going to be handed out.

“I’ve got to earn everything as it comes.”

With Toronto’s rotation virtually locked down, Latos is looking at a potential bullpen role or spot as a depth starter at triple-A Buffalo.

He says he’s fine with either scenario.

“Whatever it comes down to is what it comes down to,” he said. “I’m just along for the ride and I want to compete.

“I just want to get back to me and how I used to pitch.”

Toronto manager John Gibbons said Latos will be stretched out with the other starters this spring before the club decides where he fits in best.

“It’s good to have another veteran,” Gibbons said. “He’s been around, he’s had a lot of success. It’s a good addition.”

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press