By Jon Weisman
Kenta Maeda was the focal point at Camelback Ranch today. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com illustrates …
In front of an overflow crowd of Dodgers executives and dozens of Japanese media members, Kenta Maeda took the mound for his first official bullpen session since signing an eight-year contract in January.
Maeda, expected to secure a spot in the starting rotation, made 39 pitches to catcher Yasmani Grandal then fielded questions from reporters, one of them asking the right-hander what has been his biggest adjustment coming from Japan.
“English,” he said in English, then shifted to Japanese to add: “I want to be able to answer in English.”
Maeda said his due diligence since signing was to speak to countrymen Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iswakuma, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka and learn how they made the successful transition on and off the field in recent years.
The biggest transition is the demands of pitching every five days in the Major Leagues, compared with generally once every seven days in Japan. Maeda said that was the main topic of conversation when he met with manager Dave Roberts for coffee after his workout.
“I will experiment with different styles and methods during Spring Training,” Maeda said. “Once I start pitching in the regular season I will stick to one routine.” …
According to Doug Padilla of ESPN.com, Maeda checked in with Grandal after his bullpen session.
“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. “And just asking about what my preference was in positioning him.”
Andrew Friedman told Andy McCullough of the Times that the Dodgers are also using this time carefully to get their bearings on Maeda.
“Before we start putting pen to paper to come up with a plan, we want to spend this time during spring training to be around him, to get to know him, to get a better feel for his work habits,” Friedman said. “To help him come up with a plan between starts. To monitor how much he throws and how he recovers.”
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt praised Maeda to McCullough.
“Mechanically, he’s very solid,” Honeycutt said. “Able to move the ball, control the baseball, make the ball do different things. He’s actually a good hitter. He’s an athlete.”
In general, Maeda likes what he sees from Spring Training in America, according to the Japan Times.
“Because practice in Japan is exhausting, this is just right,” Maeda said Saturday. “I think this is an environment in which I’ll be able to do the training I want.”