With the postseason rapidly approaching, the Los Angeles Dodgers will soon construct the best 25-man roster possible in their quest to reach the World Series for the first time in 29 years. That will call for decisions pertaining to the bullpen and left field.
The club boasts a plethora of depth all-around the organization, especially in the starting pitching category, which will likely leave some worthwhile arms on the outside looking in.
Two names that come to mind are Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu, both of whom are expected to compete for a spot in the bullpen over the remaining games. That was not without Maeda first making a start Thursday, and Ryu to follow suit this weekend.
Maeda was capped at three innings and 61 pitches, and after the Dodgers’ win, manager Dave Roberts highlighted why he believes the right-hander can succeed as a relief pitcher, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“Going forward, we see him as a weapon in the bullpen,” manager Dave Roberts said of Maeda. “He’s done it and really thrived in that role. To get a couple days off, get in the ‘pen and get acclimated for the postseason. The way he showed to acclimate to changing his routine. Throughout his career he’s been very tough on right-hand hitters. In the postseason, when you’re counting outs and looking at lineups you’ll face and matchups, there’s ways to deploy him to give him the best chance for success.”
Thus far Maeda has twice pitched out of the bullpen this season, with both relief appearances coming within four days in June. He threw four innings and allowed one run to earn a save in the first, then tossed a perfect inning in relief.
Maeda has pitched his best baseball of the season since the All-Star Break, going 5-2 with a 4.05 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched — good for 10.12 strikeouts per nine. Aside from a shaky outing against the San Francisco Giants, he’s allowed two earned runs or less in his starts this month.
Whether Maeda ultimately earns a spot on the postseason roster remains to be seen, but given his usage this month and comments by Roberts, he may have a leg up on Ryu, among others.