When the Los Angeles Dodgers were first linked to Kenta Maeda ahead of the 2016 season, there were lofty expectations for what he would bring to the club or whichever team he elected to sign with. However, that was tempered when he confirmed a physical turned up ‘irregularities’ in his throwing elbow.
Thus, rather than receive a hefty contract, Maeda signed an eight-year, $25 million deal with the Dodgers that was heavy on incentives. Despite underlying injury concerns, Maeda has largely been an effective pitcher for the Dodgers.
There have been growing pains along the way, namely the 29-year-old adjusting to pitching more regularly in the Majors than he did in Japan.
Now heading into his third season with the Dodgers, Maeda is confident that hurdle has been cleared, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“A lot of the adjustments have been done,” said Maeda. “I’ve forgotten about the routine I used to have in Japan.”
As they did with Hyun-Jin Ryu and others, the Dodgers placed Maeda on the 10-day disabled list last season as a means of buying him additional rest throughout the year. He made 32 starts in 2016 and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, but fatigue was apparent.
Last season, Maeda appeared in 29 games (25 starts) and with the Dodgers’ aggressive use of the DL, largely managed to avoid a recurrence of fatigue. Though Maeda was stellar in a relief role during the postseason, the Dodgers have returned him to the starting rotation for 2018.
General manager Farhan Zaidi recently referred to Maeda as “very underrated,” because of his willingness and ability to fill any role asked of him.
Maeda was back on the mound Sunday for his first start since falling victim to the virus that claimed dozens of Dodgers players and staff personnel. He went 2.1 innings against the San Francisco Giants, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three.