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PEORIA—The Padres limped to the finish line last season, blowing a 6 1/2-game lead to the Giants in the National League West over the final five weeks and being eliminated from the division and wild card races on the regular season's last day.

In many regards, the Padres lost a war of attrition. A young starting rotation that had been one of the Padres' strengths for five months became a liability in September as most of the pitchers exceeded their career highs in innings pitched.

The Padres monitored their pitchers' workloads carefully, unwilling to sacrifice anyone's career for a shot at post-season glory. Padres manager Bud Black does not regret that decision.

"I'm never going to put anyone in jeopardy of being injured," he said. "We'll watch the innings counts and the pitch counts again this year. We won't be as strict as last season because our guys have proven they can handle a heavily workload but we'll still be watching."

The one pitcher the Padres will keep close tabs on, though, is staff ace Mat Latos, who pitched 184 2/3 innings last year during his age-22 season. His high in his previous three pro seasons was 122 2/3 in 2009. Latos hasn't looked sharp during his Cactus League starts this spring, causing some both inside and outside the organization to wonder if he is suffering a hangover affect from his jump in innings.

"We're keeping in mind that he is still just 23 years old," Black said. "He's an important part of club but we're going to resist the temptation to push him. He has a very bright future and we want to do everything we can to make sure he stays healthy."