Maeda making 'seamless' transition with Dodgers

Japanese righty quells injury concerns with solid spring

Maeda making 'seamless' transition with Dodgers

PHOENIX -- Along with all of the injuries the Dodgers didn't expect, they didn't know that Kenta Maeda would make such a smooth and healthy transition from Japan to the Major Leagues.

But the pitcher who had "irregularities" in his physical exam completed his most strenuous tuneup for the regular season on Sunday with a solid 5 1/3 innings of a 7-6 loss to the Reds, allowing three runs (two earned).

"He's as good, if not better, than advertised," said manager Dave Roberts. "His transition to this point has been pretty seamless."

And in his first plate appearance, Maeda dropped a sacrifice bunt on an 0-2 pitch, an achievement of such pride that the 27-year-old right-hander couldn't say which was more satisfying, the bunt or a home run he hit off Roberts in batting practice to win a dinner bet.

"That's a tough one," Maeda said.

However, he had no such problem deciding the type of dinner Roberts would buy him.

"Steak," Maeda said in English.

Roberts will probably buy plenty of steak dinners if Maeda proves as effective and durable during the regular season as he's been in Spring Training, when so many of his teammates have been felled by injuries.

Maeda threw 85 pitches and was lifted after allowing a pair of one-out singles in the sixth inning. He was rubbing his fingertips at that point, which Maeda said was dead skin and Roberts said was a minor blister.

"I think he had a little blister, but it's something he's dealt with before and never missed a start because of it," said Roberts, who insisted that had nothing to do with Maeda's removal. "He got some funky swings, facing good hitters over there that weren't seeing him well."

Maeda on his strong start

"Overall I feel good. The results are good, too," Maeda said. "I'm happy with the camp. I thought I was able to accept a lot of the difference brought forth here, and that's what I expected, so I thought I did a good job adjusting to the changes."

Maeda -- who signed an eight-year, incentive-laden contract because of the health questions -- said he came to the Major Leagues with an open mind and willingness to try new things.

"The success does help with the confidence," he said. "If I can replicate what I did here during the regular season, it will be even more of a confidence builder."

By contrast, reliever Luis Avilan had another rough outing. He has a 13.50 ERA and seems to be pitching his way off the roster. Roberts said Avilan was betrayed by fastball command issues.

"You don't want to completely judge on Spring Training, especially when a guy has a track record, but there's got to be some success and confidence coming into a season," Roberts said. "When you have two lefties in the 'pen, both have got to get lefties out. We've tried to put him in those spots. As we get toward end of camp, he's going to get opportunities and we're going to be looking for him to have more success."

Avilan finished last season as the second lefty reliever behind J.P. Howell, who also has had a rough spring (10.13 ERA). Lefty Adam Liberatore has been more effective and the Dodgers also could go with an extra right-hander and only one lefty in the bullpen.

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