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By Jon Weisman
We recapped Kenta Maeda’s latest outing Tuesday, but I saw some more comments this morning worth passing along.
The bulk of them centered on how much it will help Maeda simply to put more mileage on his American odometer. For example, here’s what Maeda said to the Japan Times …
… “I’m still throwing some fat pitches, but I was able to get some strikeouts, so it was a learning experience,” he said. “Next time I want to do a good job while increasing my innings and pitch count and not walking batters.
“There were times when I threw pitches on the corner that I wanted strikes on but were called balls. Had I got them, I would have had more strikeouts. I think I’m going to have to establish my reputation among the umpires as a pitcher with good control.” …
… “The more hitters he faces, the more information he registers,” Roberts said. “He understands how to attack guys and get guys out. Right now, he’s just going on faith with the catchers and looking at the fingers they put down. But there’s a learning curve for Kenta and he’s starting to learn hitters, so every time he faces a major league hitter, he’s got some information.
“The more video he watches and starts to learn individual swings, I’m sure he’ll have his own idea and maybe you’ll see him start shaking off (his catcher’s signs) more.”
Joey Kaufman of the Register talked about how Dodger catchers such as A.J. Ellis are trying to bridge the language gap with Maeda.
… Between innings, they can mull strategy with help from an interpreter. On the field, it’s all on them.
What they resort to are a few expressions. If Maeda appears flustered, Ellis said he can calm him down by simulating a deep breath. There is some more body language too. He might give him “a look.”
“Those things are pretty universal,” Ellis said. …
Keith Law of ESPN.com had a mixed review of Maeda after the righty’s previous outing, March 10.
Maeda threw three scoreless innings against a light Oakland lineup, but pitched all day with a grade-45 fastball, 88-91 mph, with left-handed hitters especially squaring the pitch up, and a visible change in his arm speed whenever he was throwing any other pitch. He showed three offspeed pitches, including a plus changeup at 79-82 mph that had a very good tailing action to it, although the change in arm speed was evident. His slider is very sharp but shows its break early enough that good hitters should pick it up; at 79-83 mph, the slider was better than his slow curveball at 69-73 mph, which he can throw for strikes but which is probably too slow to be a swing-and-miss pitch against major league hitters. The changeup and slider might be good enough even with the fringy fastball, though there is hope that he’ll throw a little harder after three more weeks of building up to the regular season. I just don’t see much upside here, between the light fastball and the change in arm speed when he needs to throw something slower.
Law’s conclusion was that Maeda, who turns 28 in April, looked “like an adequate back-of-the-rotation starter, but nothing more.” That, by the way, wouldn’t be something to dismiss — but the hope here is that with a little more time, Maeda can indeed develop into something more.