Blue Jays spring training takeaways: Latos in fine form

Mat Latos as a member of the Washington Nationals. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

• McBroom the walk-off hero
• Latos continues to excite
• Blue Jays flash the leather

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching was lights-out for eight innings, and it appeared as though Jose Bautista’s first-inning home run was going to hold up, but a rally by the New York Yankees in the ninth set the stage for a minor-league call-up to be a hero as the Jays walked it off for their second win of the spring.

Here’s what stood out to me about Friday’s 3-2 Jays win:

McBOOM

Ryan McBroom was a 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays out of West Virginia University in 2014, and spent most of his 2016 season right here in Dunedin, where he hit .274/.323/.468 with 21 home runs in 119 games, earning a nine-game call-up to Double-A New Hampshire.

McBroom had been called up from the minor-league complex earlier in the week – he went 0-for-3 in the Jays’ 12-0 win in Bradenton on February 28th, striking out twice and popping up.

Given another opportunity, McBroom entered Friday’s game in the seventh inning when Rowdy Tellez’ day was done, and came to the plate for the first time in the bottom of the ninth in a game that had just been tied by Ji-Man Choi’s two-run seeing-eye single in the top of the frame.

Comfortable in his old stomping grounds, McBroom took a hard swing at the first pitch from Joe Mantiply and missed, but made no mistake with the second offering, belting a no-doubt rocket to deep left field to become the walk-off hero.

McBroom is likely to start this season as the first baseman for the Fisher Cats, one level below Tellez, who will be in Triple-A.

THAT CAT LATOS LOOKED AWFULLY GOOD

Making his second appearance of the spring, righty Mat Latos followed up two shutout innings from Francisco Liriano with two perfect innings of his own.

Facing six major-leaguers, including Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and defending NL home run champion Chris Carter, Latos struck out a pair, induced two grounders to first and got two weak fly balls.

Working with Russell Martin for the first time, Latos consistently pitched ahead, flashed a fastball at 91-92 MPH and used a nasty splitter to help him to a very strong outing.

The righty, who just needs to show that he’s healthy and strong in order to make the team, has now faced 12 hitters so far this spring and retired all but one.

FLASHING THE LEATHER

It’s tough to put together eight shutout innings without some pretty glove work, and the Blue Jays’ defenders made three terrific plays in the win over the Yankees.

It started with Gold Glover Darwin Barney, who made a sensational grab off a Jorge Mateo flare in short right field in the second inning. Barney raced out and made a great catch over his head, on the run, in front of a charging Jose Bautista to steal what appeared to be destined to be a bloop single, ending the inning and stranding a runner on first.

In the sixth, Brett Gardner hit a weak grounder to shortstop. Richard Urena charged it, made the play and knowing how quick Gardner is, whipped a strong throw to first that sailed high. Tellez needed every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame — plus all of his reach — to haul the ball in, and he did.

Finally, it was an outfielder’s time to shine as, with Tellez watching from the broadcast booth, Darrell Ceciliani ran down a long drive by Ruben Tejada, reaching up to pick it off the right-field wall for the first out of the eighth inning.

The Blue Jays make their longest road trip of the spring on Saturday, driving three hours down I-75 to visit the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers. Casey Lawrence gets the start, with Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and Dalton Pompey all part of the traveling party. Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and I will have the call along the Sportsnet Radio Network beginning with the pre-game show at 12:30pm Eastern. Listen here.

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