All Eyes on Kenta Maeda
It was a perfect day for Japanese phenom, Kenta Maeda, to make his Dodger and MLB debut. The 27-year-old right-hander took the mound against the Diamondbacks on Saturday afternoon. Because of his similar pause at the top of his delivery, Kenta Maeda is being compared to another Los Angeles Dodger great, Hideo Nomo. Not to mention all of the media buzz that Maeda is encountering, much like Nomo had.
With all the pressures of a new league, home, contract (signed for eight years, $25 million) and an entire country watching you (Japan aired the game as early as 5 AM Sunday morning), t would have been completely normal to expect Maeda to struggle during his first Major League appearance. Did he?
The 2 time Sawamura Award Winner wasted no time notching a strike on his first pitch and eventually forcing Nick Ahmed to fly out to right field. He followed that up by recording his first strikeout against the very next batter. Facing a 2-2 count, Jake Lamb failed to connect on a beautiful changeup at his knees.
Maeda finished the game strong, striking out his last batter to end the second. Maeda exited with 28 pitches, 2 strikeouts and no walks. A two-out double from Phil Gosselin in the first was the only hit he allowed. However, he did continue to throw an additional bullpen session after he left the game.
All in all, it was an impressive debut for the projected #3 starter. He looked cool, calm and in control on the mound. A great sign if you’re a dodger fan and impressive, to say the least. I don’t doubt Maeda will succeed early in the MLB. He’s got all the tools and weapons (fastball, curve, slider, changeup) to succeed. The question is if he can maintain that success. No matter what, Kenta Maeda will definitely be counted on to keep the Dodgers competitive against the Giants and Diamondbacks this season.
Kenta Maeda wasn’t the only prize right-handed pitcher to make their debut on Saturday. Shelby Miller, many of whom feel Arizona overpaid for, also took the mound for the first time as a Diamondback. Arizona traded their #1 draft pick SS Dansby Swanson, RHP Aaron Blair and fan favorite Ender Inciarte to acquire Miller during the offseason. Arizona wanted a strong number two pitcher to pair with their new ace, Zack Greinke, and felt the price was justified since they were focusing on winning “now” as opposed to building for the future.
His debut wasn’t nearly as flawless as Maeda’s and won’t do much to change the perception of the trade that brought him to the desert. Granted, it’s only one outing and two innings. So I’ll reserve judgment for now.
Miller struggled to find the strike zone for most of the afternoon. Finishing his two innings with 39 pitches and giving up 5 hits, 2 runs while walking one. It was rough from the beginning for Miller who allowed the first two batters to reach base via singles. Yasiel Puig drew blood first, scoring Howie Kendrick with a sacrifice fly to center. It could have been worse, too.
After walking the next batter. Miller was fortunate to get Yasmani Grandal to an inning-ending double play. Miller didn’t improve much by the second ending. Giving up another run off of three more singles.
If Arizona wants to contend and change the perception of their front office, they will need Shelby Miller to perform well this season. It may be too much to ask for from one player but there’re no excuses. Arizona is in it to win it this year. Not only do they expect Miller to repeat last year’s performance, their counting on him to improve upon it as well.