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Dodgers: Andrew Friedman Candid on Kenta Maeda’s Role in 2020

He’s gonna start until he doesn’t.

Dodgers
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The best reliever for the Dodgers from this past postseason is a starting pitcher by trade — no I am not talking about Clayton Kershaw here. Kenta Maeda tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in LA’s NLDS loss. He added 7 strikeouts and walked none… and will be back in the rotation in 2020, per Andrew Friedman.

The President of Baseball Operations was asked about Kenta’s role for next season and confirmed that he expects the right hander to take the ball in a starting capacity.

My full expectation is that he will be back and pitching every fifth day and be a big part of what we do next year.

There was something of a read between the lines pause before his assertion that Maeda will return to the club for his fifth season, perhaps hinting at the right hander being a trade chip, but that’s likely just this writer’s mind running a little wild.

Nevertheless, Maeda is expect to join Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, along with some mix of Dustin May, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Ross Stripling among others. Of course Hyun-Jin Ryu — who’s agent is Scott Boras — and Rich Hill will officially be free agents upon the completion of the World Series.

Moreover, there is expectation that Los Angeles could make a run at free agent-to-be Gerrit Cole from the Houston Astros.

Now, when asked how Maeda could finally stick in the rotation for the entire season, Andrew Friedman was to the point in his response.

Talking to Kenta this September — from our viewpoint, everything we do is a meritocracy. There will definitely be the possibility for Kenta to earn a starting role for longer, and potentially into October, and I think a lot of that gets to just commanding the baseball a little bit better against left handed hitters, and we had that conversation about what that could mean.

We’d love for him to continue to take his game to another level, which we think he’s capable of… and take the ball for us every fifth day and pitch for us in October.

No doubt one of Maeda’s greater weaknesses since joining the Dodgers in 2016 has been his work against lefty batters. He holds a career batting average split of .199 vs RHBs against .257 vs LHBs. More importantly, left handed batters have slugged nearly .100 points higher against the 31 year old.

With so many starting arms on the club, chances are that Friedman could eat his words early on Kenta the starter. As it stands, if the club doesn’t dive into the free agent market, the argument could be made that Maeda is the sixth or seventh best starter on the depth chart.

More likely, with the emergence of rookie arms capable of starting, Maeda could be suiting up for another club in 2020.

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

9 Comments

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  1. I don’t get it! Maeda is so much better as a reliever. I know his contract is structured for him to be a starter but why not just restructure it? Anyone remember Eric Gagne? He was a mediocre starter but as a closer he was incredible! ” Put players in the best position to be successful ” they always say,….. well??

  2. Ego aside, Maeda should realize he has more impact coming out of the bullpen and therefore want to do what’s best for the team. From the FO side, his contract shouldn’t matter, I’m sure Urias and Stripling would rather be starters but they keep getting bounced back and forth. Keeping him in the pen would be the first step to rebuilding the biggest weakness the Dodgers have.

  3. Maeda is not going anywhere. His versatility is a plus and his kick butt-take names attitude in September and the playoffs is all I need to know. Let him pitch in the rotation as much as he can within the Dodger system, but he needs to know that unless he becomes one of the top 4, his minutes as a starter will not exist but he will get plenty of high leverage situations out of the bull pen… as long as Roberts gets some help making those decisions because he has clearly shown he can’t make them himself.

    And Gerritt Cole! That is almost too much to even expect that Friedman would put a crow bar in the teams strongbox, bust off the locks and give a still young guy 5-7 years of decent money to help lead the Dodgers to an actual WS Crown. Cole and Buehler would be like the days of Kershaw and Grienke, Starter #1 and 1A. But please don’t be offended if I say, “I’ll believe it when I see it!” That would be asking Friedman to really change his stripes. And you know the old saying about a leopard and his spots!!!

  4. This switching back-and-forth, starter to reliever and vice-versa is what is messing-up with the Dodgers pitchers. Make a pitcher one or the other and stay with it. Otherwise trade the pitcher. Oh by the way Washington swept the Cardinals.

  5. Yup, he was on fire & threw all those scoreless innings yet Roberts still pulled him when he couldve went much deeper into the game to roll the dice with other pitchers…. now we get to watch the World Series on tv instead of at Dodgers Stadium.
    #coachoftheyear #andwekepthim #smh

  6. IF DODGERS RELIE ON ,MAY, GOSLANE TO START, STUPID HE IS NOT A WALKER B. [needs to cut the bush,look like a pro] . get Ned and Mike back w/ good players and win.J.T.is fading, GET RENDON ,BEFORE J.T. GOES DOWN,

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