Dodgers News: Kenta Maeda Working On Refining Changeup, Other Offspeed Pitches During Spring Training
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda had his first outing of the spring on Tuesday afternoon against the Kansas City Royals in Surprise, and the right-hander already looked to be in midseason form.

Maeda tossed a perfect inning to begin the game, striking out both Whit Merrifield and Billy Hamilton before getting Alex Gordon to ground out to second.

When discussing his outing, Maeda was pleased with how his changeup looked and felt. “I had a good feeling of the changeup coming out of my hand, not really scared to choose that pitch. Confident in my changeup,” he said.

As is the case with most pitchers, Maeda’s biggest focus during Spring Training this year is to refine his arsenal, particularly offspeed pitches.

“I changed my grip on my changeup and curveball last year so I need to work on being a little more precise with those two pitches,” he explained.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts knows Maeda will be an essential part of the team’s starting rotation this season, and he was happy with what he saw out of him.

“It was a nice, clean outing for Kenta. It was good,” Roberts said. “Delivery good, the slider, the changeup was good, fastball played today. So clean outing for him and he went back out there I think to do an extra inning in the bullpen.”

Roberts also talked about Maeda’s changeup, believing that could be a crucial pitch for him this year if he wants to be successful. “There’s a confidence there with the grip and the changeup, it’s an equalizer to a left-handed hitter.

“So whether he can throw it for a strike if he needs to or bury it for a strikeout, he can do that. As long as he can change eye levels with the fastball, the slider is obviously his best pitch, but to the lefty [the changeup] is a good equalizer.”

With Clayton Kershaw currently dealing with a shoulder injury that could potentially sideline him at the beginning of the regular season, all the other starters will need to step up in his absence. That is something that Maeda has become accustomed to in recent years though with Kershaw and other starters frequently being out with injuries.