Aside from providing ample time for pitchers to extend themselves and ramp up for the regular season, Spring Training is also when they can toy with new mechanics or pitches, or make adjustments to their arsenal. Such was the case for Kenta Maeda on Friday.
The start against the Kansas City Royals was his fourth of the spring. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts intended for his right-hander to go four innings, but a high pitch count kept him just short at three frames.
Maeda surrendered a home run to Whit Merrifield to begin the game, then walked the next batter. But rather than allow the inning to unravel, he picked up a strikeout and limited the Royals to just the one run.
Maeda finished with four strikeouts and allowed just the one run on three hits and walk over his day’s work.
During the outing, Maeda focused on utilizing his changeup and was pleased with the feel of it, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“A little rough around the edges in the first inning, but I got my feeling back and felt pretty good after that,” said Maeda. “To be able to go three innings and be able to work on my changeup, that’s what I was working on. The changeup felt great coming off my hand.”
Last season, Maeda threw his changeup 9.3 percent, which was down a full percentage from his rookie season. In 2017 he yielded a .275 opponents’ batting average and .471 on-base plus slugging percentage on the pitch.
In addition to honing his changeup, Maeda is focused on carrying the same mentality he had as an effective reliever in the postseason into the regular season, despite again being a starter. What may aid that is the 29-year-old believes he’s fully adjusted to the demands and throwing program of an MLB pitcher.