Dodgers News: Kenta Maeda Addresses Pressure Of Pitching Well To Remain In Rotation
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda pitched one of his best games of the season Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves, tossing seven shutout innings to earn his 10th win, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Dodgers bolstered their starting rotation by acquiring All-Star Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers a mere minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline on Monday. The move was made with an eye on the postseason but may create for a bit of a logjam in the rotation down the stretch of the season.

Once Clayton Kershaw returns from his lower back strain, the Dodgers front office and coaching staff will have a decision to make on who the team’s fifth starter will be behind Kershaw, Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill.

The candidates are Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who also tossed seven shutout innings on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, and Brandon McCarthy, who is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a blister issue.

After his impressive start against the Braves, Maeda addressed the crowded rotation and admitted to feeling pressure to pitch well each time out, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:

“Yes, I do feel the pressure. That’s the reality right now. We have a lot of really good pitchers who are producing,” Maeda said through his interpreter of the jockeying for position in the back of the Dodgers’ rotation. You know, there’s only a limited amount of spots. It’s not in my power to influence that. What I try to do is make sure I produce every time I get the opportunity to do so.”

Since a demotion to the bullpen at the beginning of June, Maeda has gone 6-1 with one save in nine appearances (seven starts), while yielding a 2.11 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 42.2 innings pitched.

Overall this season, he’s 10-4 with a 3.79 ERA, 3.82 FIP and 1.15 WHIP in 19 games (17 starts). That flies in the face of the perception that Maeda has greatly struggled this year. One area he could see an improvement in, however, is consistently providing length.

Both Maeda and Ryu have pitched effectively out of the bullpen this season, so whomever doesn’t remain in the rotation will likely shift back to a long relief role.