Maeda draws crowd in first bullpen session

Japanese starter making adjustments to Major Leagues

Maeda draws crowd in first bullpen session

PHOENIX -- In front of an overflow crowd of Dodgers executives and dozens of Japanese media members, Kenta Maeda took the mound for his first official bullpen session since signing an eight-year contract in January.

Maeda, expected to secure a spot in the starting rotation, made 39 pitches to catcher Yasmani Grandal then fielded questions from reporters, one of them asking the right-hander what has been his biggest adjustment coming from Japan.

"English," he said in English, then shifted to Japanese to add: "I want to be able to answer in English."

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Maeda said his due diligence since signing was to speak to countrymen Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iswakuma, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka and learn how they made the successful transition on and off the field in recent years.

The biggest transition is the demands of pitching every five days in the Major Leagues, compared with generally once every seven days in Japan. Maeda said that was the main topic of conversation when he met with manager Dave Roberts for coffee after his workout.

"I will experiment with different styles and methods during Spring Training," Maeda said. "Once I start pitching in the regular season I will stick to one routine."

The Dodgers are keenly interested in this, as well, because of "irregularities" believed to involve his elbow that arose during Maeda's physical exam. As a result, his incentive-heavy contract could be worth anywhere from $25 million to more than $100 million depending on his health and performance.

Another adjustment is throwing the Major League baseball, which is slightly larger than the ball used in Japan. That, Maeda said, wasn't a problem for him because he used the Major League baseball while competing in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Maeda said his pitches were sharper Sunday than in two previous bullpen sessions thrown earlier in the week during informal workouts. He said he wasn't really nervous and didn't expect to be, because it was not a game situation.

"My focus is on getting ready," he said. "I thought I was able to throw pretty well. I was able to make adjustments, execute and I achieved all of my goals."

Maeda, 28 in April, helps the Dodgers patch up the hole left by the departure of Zack Greinke to Arizona and is the only healthy right-hander in a rotation that also includes lefties Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood.

He is the eighth Japanese-born player in Dodger history, a list that includes his new manager. He is wearing No. 18 as a tribute to former Dodger Kuroda, his teammate with the Hiroshima Carp.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.