The Los Angeles Dodgers passed on the opportunity to sign a bonafide ace during the offseason and instead added Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda to a starting rotation that’s to be without Zack Greinke for the first time in three seasons.
While Kazmir and Maeda represent the Dodgers’ philosophy of valuing depth over a second front-end starter, both pitchers arrive with some question marks. That’s particularly true for Maeda, who must adjust to new demands after spending the last eight seasons pitching in once a week in Japan.
Additionally, a physical revealed “irregularities” in Maeda’s elbow, which led to the Dodgers signing the right-hander for a lower-than-expected guarantee of $25 million over eight years.
Maeda can earn nearly $100 million by triggering incentives in the deal for games started and innings pitched.
The 27 year old arrived at Camelback Ranch days prior to the expected reported date for pitchers and catchers last week.
He used the opportunity to throw a bullpen session with Yasmani Grandal, who was a regular at the club’s Spring Training facility during the offseason as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery.
“He starts his bullpen slow,” Grandal said. “He doesn’t seem like he doesn’t want to do too much with the ball, just get a feel for it. And all of a sudden, from pitch to pitch, he’ll just turn it up and get a ridiculous amount of control and movement on his ball.”
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt also spoke highly of the right-hander, including reasons beyond pitching:
“Mechanically, he’s very solid,” Honeycutt said. “Able to move the ball, control the baseball, make the ball do different things. He’s actually a good hitter. He’s an athlete.”
Last season Maeda went 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts (206.1 innings pitched). Over eight years pitching in Japan, he finished 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Maeda posted a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the last six seasons, including a career-best 1.53 ERA in 2012.
He currently projects to be the Dodgers’ lone right-hander in the starting rotation come Opening Day. Brandon McCarthy, recovering from Tommy John surgery, hopes to return prior to the 2016 All-Star Game. McCarthy was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Saturday, making June 2 the earliest date he can be activated.