Spring Training is in full swing at Camelback Ranch for the Los Angeles Dodgers as pitchers and catchers reported on Friday, and several position players are already there working out.
One of the Dodgers’ biggest offseason signees, Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda, inked to an eight-year, $25 million contract last December in a deal that’s loaded with plenty of incentives, continues to throw bullpen sessions on the same schedule as other healthy pitchers.
Prior to throwing a bullpen on Tuesday, Maeda was last on the bump on Sunday for a 39-pitch session caught by Yasmani Grandal. It was watched by Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and pitching pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, among several other onlookers.
Grandal spoke highly of the Japanese right-hander for his ability to command pitches and also Honeycutt sang Maeda’s praises.
Arguably the biggest challenge Maeda faces is in adjusting to the routine and physical demands of being a Major League pitcher. Friedman recently said he doesn’t believe Maeda will have a problem doing so and simply will need time to sort out the nuances.
According to Andy McCullough of the LA Times, Maeda will spend the spring experimenting with various routines until settling on what best suits him:
“I’m going to experiment with different styles and methods throughout spring training,” he said. “Once I’m pitching during the regular season, then I’m probably going to stick to one routine.”
Maeda was 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and averaged 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings in eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp. Last season he went 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts (206.1 innings pitched). The 27-year-old posted a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the last six seasons, including a career-best 1.53 ERA in 2012.
Maeda sought advice from fellow Japanese pitchers, Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma, who made the successful transition from pitching in Nippon Professional Baseball to the Majors. Maeda currently projects as the Dodgers’ third or fourth starter and lone righty in the rotation come Opening Day.