GLENDALE, Ariz. -- No time like the present for a little get-to-know-you session with Kenta Maeda, especially since he'll probably end up as the only right-handed pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting rotation, once the season starts.
Maeda was an early arrival to spring training last week, but his bullpen session Sunday was the first time new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watched his pitcher in person. It was his third bullpen session in a Dodgers uniform.
In the brief throwing session to catcher Yasmani Grandal, Maeda flashed a windup with arms high over his head, hinting at former Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo. There was a slight pause in the middle of the delivery, followed by a smooth finish toward the plate.
Immediately after the bullpen, he had conversations with Grandal and Roberts.
“Grandal was asking me my preference in terms of how much of his body is away from the plate or within the plate,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “And just asking about what my preference was in positioning him.”
Maeda said that instead of bringing his own preparation methods to the United States, he will strictly adhere to the Dodgers’ training schedule. That means bullpen sessions every other day as long as the team sees fit.
He said he spoke to a number of Japanese pitchers who have performed in the major leagues to ask their advice.
“I’ve spoken with [Hiroki] Kuroda, [Hisashi] Iwakuma, [Yu] Darvish and [Masahiro] Tanakaabout the different method here,” Maeda said. “So in terms of making the adjustments here in the states, they have not been surprising.”
While not known as an overpowering pitcher, Maeda has a reputation for relentlessly attacking the strike zone.
One advantage for the Dodgers in the early going could be the league’s unfamiliarity with Maeda, who has pitched the last eight seasons for Hiroshima in the Japan Central League. Over the last six seasons, Maeda never posted an ERA over 3.00 and had a career-best 2.09 mark last season over 206 1/3 innings (29 starts).
“Yeah, I think that with any pitcher/batter matchup, if there is any unfamiliarity, the advantage is to the pitcher,” Roberts said. “I’m looking forward to watching him throw, and get off the mound, and him trying to assimilate and get regimented with other pitchers. He’s excited for it. The league learns quickly so it’s all about pitch execution, but he’s performed.”
Asked about the most difficult adjustment so far, Maeda answered in perfect English.
“English,” he said.