As had been the case in recent years, a strong suit for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2019 season was their talented starting rotation that was led by a trio of All-Stars in Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw.
Three of the four were included on the Dodgers’ National League Division Series roster against the Washington Nationals — the only exception being Gonsolin. In the case of Maeda and May, they each were exclusively featured as relievers.
Both thrived in the capacity after shifting from their usual starting role. Maeda was perhaps most equipped for the change given his experience pitching out of the bullpen in past postseasons.
And while he was once again successful, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman anticipates Maeda returning to the starting rotation for the 2020 season. “My full expectation is he will be back, pitching every fifth day and be a big part of what we do next year,” Friedman said.
However, Friedman left open the possibility of Maeda avoiding the annual shift to the bullpen if he’s able to improve. “In talking to Kenta this September, from our viewpoint, everything we do is a meritocracy,” Friedman noted.
“It’s merit-based. There will definitely be the possibility for Kenta to earn a starting role potentially into October.
“A lot of that gets to commanding the baseball a little bit better against left-handed hitters, just improving against left-handed hitters. We had that conversation about what that could mean, and continue to have the focus be we would love for him to continue to take his game to another level, which we think he’s capable of.”
Maeda logged 37 appearances during the regular season — 26 of which were starts — compiling a 10-8 record with a 4.04 ERA, 3.95 FIP and 1.07 WHIP in 153.2 innings pitched.
Maeda transitioned to the bullpen at the start of September and yielded six runs over his final 10 appearances of the year. As a reliever, he posted a solid 3.24 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 11 games.
The 31-year-old carried that success into October, where he made four appearances against the Nationals. In 4.1 scoreless innings, he allowed just one hit while striking out seven batters.