Maeda begins his L.A. story; Grandal not ready to return
By Cary Osborne
Kenta Maeda’s Dodger Stadium debut was brief in that it was four innings. But the four planned innings Friday night against the Angels were telling to Maeda, Dodger manager Dave Roberts and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
“I think the biggest accomplishment was being able to throw at Dodger Stadium,” Maeda said. “Aside from that, at this point I felt great.”
Maeda capped off his strong spring with a good first impression in L.A. in the Dodgers’ 5-1 loss.
Two earned runs in four innings don’t equate necessarily to a good outing, but those two very easily could have been one. Angel Yunel Escobar singled to center in the third inning, scoring one run, and Joc Pederson had Rafael Ortega dead to rights at third base, but he three-hopped a throw that Justin Turner was unable to handle, allowing Ortega to reach third and later score on a groundout.
Maeda allowed three hits total — all in the third inning — walked none and struck out two.
“Maeda was good,” Roberts said. “He was pretty efficient with his pitches. Mixed in all his pitches. Just to see some good hitters over there and being in this environment, the mound, the ballpark, for us we couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Maeda exits his first Spring Training, having allowed six earned runs in 23 innings (2.35 ERA). He didn’t have to face Mike Trout on Saturday, but he got Albert Pujols to ground out twice and finally got a slider past Kole Calhoun to strike him out in the second inning after the Angels right fielder fouled off four pitches in the at-bat.
“He knows how to use his curveball, he knows how to use his slider,” Honeycutt said. “And we’ve seen command to both sides of the plate with his slider. He’s got weapons. I don’t think there’s any time a hitter can sit on one pitch with him.”
Honeycutt said he had 60 pitches in mind for Saturday’s start and Maeda exited having thrown 49. As for his first Major League start, how long he goes depends on how stressful the innings are.
“The way I look at it (in his first regular season start) is you have a (pitch) number in mind, but it’s how you get to that number,” Honeycutt said. “If you have long innings, I think that takes a certain toll on a pitcher. You have to be careful when those counts happen. It still could be a comfortable pitch count, but it depends how you got to that point.”
It’s looking more like Yasmani Grandal won’t be the man who catches Maeda in his first start. After Saturday’s loss to the Angels, Roberts said Grandal wasn’t ready to return from Arizona where he has been playing minor league games and trying to return from forearm soreness.
“He felt OK coming out of today. Not great,” Roberts said. “But for us, we have to make that decision if we want him to open the season active and remain active. But if there are thoughts he could have a setback once the season starts I think we’re going to err on the side of start the season on the disabled list. As it stands now we (planned) on him playing tomorrow, but he’s not going to play tomorrow. He’s going to stay in Arizona. So now you’re looking at two days before Opening Day. The window’s closing for Yasmani, so we’ll see.”