When the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason, they were hoping they’d get a reliable guy who could be depended upon for a lot of innings at the top of a Major League rotation on a team that is contending for something major. Now, it might be a little more than that.
With the recent injury to Brett Anderson, and with Hyun-jin Ryu not due back until May, it’s sounding more and more like Maeda will be called upon to be one of the more reliable starters on the team alongside Clayton Kershaw and Scott Kazmir. But he’s been a reliable guy before, just not in the United States.
But with so many injuries to guys expected to contribute, Maeda won’t be able to ease into his first year of Major League Baseball. To ensure the Dodgers don’t fall behind early in the race, he will need to perform right away.
Last season in Japan, Maeda threw 206.1 innings. However, that isn’t the same as throwing 206 innings over in the states. In Japan, he only had to pitch once every six days. Instead, here, he’ll now be called upon to pitch once every five days. That’s a heavier burden, but one he’ll need to carry.
Maeda’s been pitching since he was 20 years old, and he’s already racked up just over 1500 career innings. He seems ready for big league success as he’s about to turn 28 years old, and he certainly possesses the skill set to be a quality number two or number three pitcher for the foreseeable future.
Yet, the Dodgers’ chances of success in 2016 might depend on just how well he pitches from the outset. Any major stumble, any major struggle, could lead to a disaster waiting to happen as hitters start to figure him out more and more. They need Maeda to produce early, and to produce well.