2017 NLDS: Dodgers View Kenta Maeda As Right-Handed Specialist
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After making a start Sept. 21, the Los Angeles Dodgers moved Kenta Maeda into the bullpen as preparation for his potential role in the National League Division Series and beyond if the team is to advance in the postseason.

Maeda entered in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS for only his fifth career relief appearance and first in the playoffs. He retired the two batters faced to end the inning, then struck out J.D. Martinez to start the sixth.

Although Maeda had good command, movement and velocity on his pitches, he was lifted after three batters. “He’s on this roster to get righties out. He’s really been a righty killer,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained of his decision to remove Maeda.

“There was a run of righties, and he did what he needed to do. You look down the lineup, and there are three or four left-handed hitters coming up. We’ve got Tony Watson on this roster to do just the opposite, get lefties out.”

In his four relief appearances during the regular season, Maeda went 1-0 with a three-inning save, 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Albeit in a small sample size, his strikeout rate was 31 percent, compared to 24.8 percent as a starter.

Overall this season, right-handed batters hit just .214/.258/.389. Left-handed batters had a .781 on-base plus slugging percentage. Though, extra-bases hits allowed were relatively balanced regardless of the split.

Maeda surrendered 13 doubles and 10 home runs to right-handed hitters, and 13 and 12, respectively, to those on the left side of the plate.

While Maeda was part of the Dodgers’ postseason rotation last October, he’s moved into the bullpen this year in part because of the team’s confidence in pitch mix playing up as a reliever.