Looking ahead to the 2019 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers will again be flush with options for their starting rotation. The club’s depth remains intact after hammering out a new three-year extension with Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu accepting the qualifying offer.
Other arms that figure to vie for a spot include Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood. Former top pitching prospect Julio Urias is also expected to reprise his role as a starting pitcher despite thriving as a reliever in the postseason.
Kenta Maeda, another key bullpen contributor during the Dodgers’ World Series run, could take a similar path. “We anticipate him being one of five for us next year,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“He was a big part of our success out of the rotation. He pitched well and we anticipate him doing that next year.”
After beginning the 2018 season in the Dodgers starting rotation, Maeda transitioned to a relief role following Kenley Jansen’s heart scare. He remained in that capacity through the postseason, where he came up big for a second consecutive year.
Even with his continued success, Friedman believes Maeda is better suited in his traditional setting. “It’s more just where we are at a particular point in time,” he explained of removing Maeda from the rotation.
“From his standpoint, we want his mindset to be to take the ball every fifth day and do everything he can to help us win. We got to a point where we had eight relievers on the DL. We had depth in our starting rotation but not in the bullpen, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
“So it kind of set up an opportunity for us to move a couple of very talented starting pitchers into the bullpen to help augment help there.”
In 20 starts last season, Maeda went 6-7 with a 3.85 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 107.2 innings pitched. He struck out 10.6 batters per nine in that role, but fared even better as a reliever, posting a 3.57 ERA and 1.19 ERA in 20 appearances out of the bullpen.