The Los Angeles Dodgers have enjoyed a seemingly endless stream of quality starts from arguably the best rotation in baseball this season. However, Kenta Maeda’s five-run outing in which he failed to get past the third inning against the San Diego Padres on Sunday proved a rare dud.
The Dodgers eventually rallied to beat the Padres 11-10 on a walk-off double from Max Muncy. However, Maeda’s rough start prompted speculation on whether his role could soon shift. Particularly when considering manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers front office appear to have multiple options available.
Regardless of how the situation shakes out, Maeda seems likely to eventually return to the team’s bullpen, where he has had a lot of success, for a third straight October. But that move will not happen in the near future.
“No, no,” Roberts said about the possibility of Maeda losing his rotation spot after Sunday’s game. “He’s fine.”
Rich Hill is expected back from the 10-day injured list in September and could either start or pitch in relief. Julio Urias has been in the bullpen for most of the year but could be stretched out to start again.
Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, the organization’s top two pitching prospects, are both currently part of the Dodgers’ rotation as the team evaluates whether either can help in any role during the postseason.
Ross Stripling’s impending return from the IL also looms, giving the Dodgers their main starter/reliever swingman back.
While a change may not be on the horizon, Roberts did concede Maeda was not as sharp as he often is. The right-hander opened with two shutout innings before the Padres tagged him with a five-run third, highlighted by a grand slam from Eric Hosmer.
“The (third) inning just sort of got away from him,” Roberts said. “It seemed like (the Padres) were sitting on some secondary pitches. Gets behind Hosmer and leaves a changeup up. That was a big blow for Kenta. … If you look at the first couple innings, I thought they were sitting soft and he was beating them with the fastball. It’s tough, it’s hard when you become predictable.”
Maeda has struggled mightily since the All-Star break. Sunday marked his third straight start where he did not make it past at least the fifth inning. Since June 11, he has a 4.96 ERA, though opposing hitters are batting just .202 with a .678 on-base plus slugging percentage.