LOS ANGELES – Ask Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda about the hamstring tightness that sent him to the DL and the playful sarcasm in his answer is not lost in translation.
“Fine,” he said through his interpreter, a twinkle in Maeda’s eye. “But thanks for being concerned.”
Maeda went on the DL two weeks ago, ostensibly for that troublesome hamstring – a day after he took a shutout into the ninth inning of a game during which he covered first base three times with no apparent difficulty. The pause was due more to a blockage – the seven pitchers the Dodgers were trying to stuff into their rotation – than any leg issues and came at a rather inopportune time for Maeda.
Before going on the DL, Maeda had turned in his best three starts of the season, allowing six runs on 13 hits while striking out 21 in 20-1/3 innings. He will be activated from the DL and rejoin the Dodgers’ rotation Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I think it’s going to be important that I pitch well the first time when I am back to get back into that rhythm of pitching well, building back again some of the routine,” Maeda said.
Maeda probably deserved a timeout earlier in the season. After his first four starts, he had an 8.05 ERA. Opposing hitters were batting .316 with a 1.007 OPS against him. Manager Dave Roberts had a meeting with Maeda following that fourth start in Arizona, during which the Japanese right-hander allowed four home runs in five innings.
Roberts’ message to Maeda was to remember “what makes him good” – and it wasn’t fastball velocity. Roberts felt Maeda was throwing his four-seam fastball too much in search of added velocity. He encouraged him to rely more on his two-seam fastball, focusing on placement down in the strike zone rather than velocity and using it to pitch inside to left-handed hitters. Roberts also suggested Maeda break out the cutter he had worked on in spring training.
Maeda’s best three starts of the season…