It wasn’t first without a few twists and turns, but the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to move on from losing Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks by signing Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda.
Not only does Maeda present plenty of intrigue as he’s the lone right-handed starter currently projected to be in the Opening Day rotation, he’s also somewhat of an unknown as this season will mark his first outside Nippon Professional Baseball.
Having watched video of Maeda, Clayton Kershaw believes the Japanese native has the skill set to succeed in the Majors.
“It looks like he throws a ton of strikes and is able to command the ball really well. You know, I think if anything, just knowing how (Hiroki) Kuroda came over and what he did, it’s not easy to go from pitching once a week to every five days,” Kershaw said at Dodgers FanFest.
As is the case when Japanese starting pitchers make the transition, the Dodgers ace stressed the importance of adjusting to pitching more frequently. “I think if he can figure that out pretty quickly in Spring Training, he’ll be fine because obviously the talent level is there,” Kershaw said.
“It’s just a matter of figuring out how to throw 33 starts as opposed to 28. He’s been healthy over there and done it. It’s just a matter of that every fifth day comes really fast, so if he can figure that out he’ll be fine.”
Kazmir is another who has watched film of Maeda and is eager to see his teammate during Spring Training. “I can’t wait to see him out on the mound to really see how he goes about everything, his pitches and everything,” Kazmir said.
“I expect to see a competitor, from what I saw in the videos. A guy that really attacks the strike zone, pinpoint location, and just keeps hitters off balance. That’s what you need in this league.”
Yasmani Grandal hasn’t yet spoken with Maeda, though wants to see much of the same from the soon-to-be-28-year-old. “Somebody asked me yesterday what would be my best advice for him, and I said not to change. I like everything about him, I like everything he does,” Grandal said.
“He looks like he is a very smart pitcher. I’m just excited to have him in the rotation. We got a lot of guys that can compete that are really good. Our starting pitching just got that much better with him, and Kazmir, and (Hyun-Jin) Ryu is coming back.”
Maeda was 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA and 1.01 WHIP last season. He won a second career Sawamura Award, which is the equivalent to MLB’s Cy Young Award. While the $25 million contract guarantee was lower than anticipated — explained by “irregularities” that arose in a physical — Maeda can ultimately earn just shy of $100 million by reaching incentives.
Both Maeda and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman are confident the elbow will not be an issue moving forward, citing Maeda’s healthy track record over the past eight seasons.