Maeda impresses with 'off the charts' pitchability

Maeda impresses with 'off the charts' pitchability

PHOENIX -- As much as Kenta Maeda wanted to bat against countryman Hisashi Iwakuma in their matchup on Monday, he couldn't argue with manager Dave Roberts' decision to use a designated hitter, specifically Justin Turner, who had three extra-base hits.

That aside, Maeda and the Dodgers were pleased with his five-inning outing in the 6-3 loss to the Mariners, as well as his ability to adjust after allowing hits to the first three Seattle batters he faced. Maeda simply erased 15 of the next 16 batters, finishing with five strikeouts and no walks.

"The first inning I think I was throwing too hard, and the next time around, I focused on locating in the strike zone," said the Japanese right-hander, whose 1.32 ERA is even lower than Clayton Kershaw's 1.80 this spring.

Roberts said Maeda's pitchability is "off the charts," noticing the righty is now shaking off catchers' signals to select a preferred pitch. Roberts praised Maeda's in-bat adjustments and envisioned more improvement during the season, when Maeda will be armed with extensive scouting reports on opposing hitters.

Maeda said he was "very happy" to pitch against Iwakuma, who the Dodgers nearly signed before Maeda, but then backed away over concerns with his physical exam. Iwakuma then re-signed with Seattle. Maeda said this was a "little more exciting than a usual start" because of the unique matchup.

He said Iwakuma was one of the Japanese Major Leaguers he consulted with when deciding to cross the Pacific.

"He told me the most important part would be adjusting to the lifestyle," Maeda said.

Meanwhile, Turner is now batting .583, although he's played in only five Major League exhibition games as the club is bringing him back cautiously from offseason microfracture left knee surgery. Five of his seven hits have been for extra bases.

In this game, perhaps an indicator of what the in-season top of the lineup might look like, Carl Crawford played left field for the injured Andre Ethier and hit leadoff, followed by Yasiel Puig, Turner and Adrian Gonzalez. Joc Pederson hit seventh and Charlie Culberson eighth, with Corey Seager injured and Kiké Hernandez getting the day off.

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