Kenta Maeda made 32 starts in his rookie season. In 19 of them, he received more than four days of rest, operating on a schedule similar to the one he followed for years in Japan. As Maeda prepares for his second year as a Dodger, Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged that Maeda would need to conform more to the major-league calendar.
“He had an outstanding first year,” Roberts said. “But it was more about understanding the toll that it took on him and his body, and to build some mass and to put on some weight to be able to handle the workload.”
For a pitcher who arrived with health concerns, having triggered red flags on his elbow and shoulder during his physical, Maeda was a picture of consistency in 2016. He logged 175⅔ innings. He never approached the disabled list. He finished with a 3.48 earned-run average.
But his slender frame appeared to sag beneath the weight of his workload as the season continued. Maeda posted a 4.25 ERA after the All-Star break. Opposing hitters walloped him in the playoffs, when he gave up eight runs in 10⅔ innings across three starts.
Even as Maeda stumbled, the Dodgers reconfigured their schedule to compensate for his acclimation to American baseball. In Japan, pitchers operate on five days of rest between outings, and the Dodgers were willing to provide Maeda that luxury. The team hopes that changes this season, in part because the group expects Clayton Kershaw to be healthy.
Kershaw prefers to operate on the standard five-day schedule. The team prefers consistency in its rotation, rather than the chaos that unfolded last season as injuries decimated the group.
Maeda did little weight training in Japan. He will add that to his focus this winter in hopes of increasing his stamina.
"I know he left L.A. with the mindset to get stronger, with the mindset to put 200 innings on his body," President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said. "It will take getting into the season some to see how it plays out to know. But if we can take another step forward, that's great.