Dodgers Move Kenta Maeda To Bullpen In Preparation For ‘Leverage Innings’ During Postseason

With the postseason just around the corner, the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently in the process of sorting out their roster and what role various players will hold come October.

Versatility has been an emphasis for the Dodgers for the last few years, not only among the position players but also the pitching staff.

One of those is Kenta Maeda as he has mostly been a starter during his four-year tenure with the Dodgers, but has also moved to the bullpen and become a reliever during the postseason the last two years.

Considering the Dodgers have one of the best starting rotations in the league and the bullpen is perhaps their biggest weakness, it appears Maeda will go help out that unit once again. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced before Monday’s game against the Colorado Rockies that Maeda was available out of the bullpen.

“I have no problem pitching him in leverage to finish out a game. So there’s a situation where you could see him following Walker and finishing the game out,” Roberts said. “Kenley is down tonight, Pedro is down tonight. We’ll see what happens going forward.”

Sure enough, Maeda was used in a four-inning save. He largely pitched well before allowing back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning, though by that time the game was well in hand.

With Julio Urias starting Tuesday and expected to continue stretching out during September, it would appear Maeda is poised to spend that time in the bullpen. “Could he make another start? Yes,” Roberts acknowledged.

“But for the time being we see Kenta out of the ‘pen just to prepare him for leverage innings in the postseason.”

Maeda has had an up-and-down season as a starter this year. In 26 starts he’s 8-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, and went through a stretch of 11 outings where he was 0-6.

A relief role is not something that is foreign to Maeda considering he has taken it on around this time of the season each of the last two years. In a combined 17 postgame games out of the bullpen in 2017 and 2018, Maeda pitched to a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts and five walks in 17.1 innings.

With Kenley Jansen struggling in recent weeks, Maeda may even get an opportunity to close out some games for the Dodgers.

The top three of the Dodgers rotation has been set for a while considering Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are all having All-Star seasons. Who the fourth starter behind them in the postseason will be remains to be seen but the candidates are now Urias, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Rich Hill, with Maeda no longer in the mix.