It’s been no surprise that the Dodgers bullpen is struggling, but after they struck out trying to land a top reliever, the Dodgers are mulling their options. One of those options could be a starter.
Every year it seems like there’s a reliever the Dodgers are confident in but never comes to fruition: Brandon League, Brian Wilson, Pedro Baez. Brandon Morrow was hoped to be a long-time member of the bullpen, but the Dodgers couldn’t persuade him into taking a set-up role to get from the starters to Kenley Jansen.
But after a heart irregularity scare, Jansen is gone – for an unknown amount of time – and his absence has been felt in the past week after suffering late-inning losses after a series-opening win against the Rockies followed by two late blown leads to the Giants.
Help has arrived though, as Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu have returned which pushed Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda to the bullpen. Kenta Maeda has spent time as a reliever, especially in the postseason, and with more starters coming back to the rotation, it could be time for him to become a regular reliever.
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In the regular season, Maeda has come on in relief in six games, nine innings in total, and has a 2-0 record. He has a 1.93 ERA and has an impressive 13:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Maeda lost Tuesday’s game in the ninth inning but that was his first game back in relief in quite a while. Once Maeda settles back into his bullpen routine he should be one of the most effective relievers in the bullpen.
Maeda was strictly used as a reliever in last year’s postseason, making nine total appearances while only earning one run, albeit a 3-run shot to Jose Altuve in Game 6. Those other two runs were earned by starter Clayton Kershaw.
Kenta pitched ten plus innings during last year’s World Series run and struck out a batter per inning while allowing just five hits. He posted a stellar 0.84 ERA to go along with a 0.66 WHIP. Maeda allowed a .135 opponent’s average overall and virtually eliminated right-handed hitters who hit just .125 against him.
Maeda is one of the most versatile pitchers outside of Ross Stripling, who only became a starter out of necessity this year. Not only does the bullpen have another late-inning weapon, but the rotation seems to be beefed up with Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Buehler, and Ryu. Maeda could be the missing link to the Dodgers’ bullpen woes which should turn into a strength once Kenley Jansen returns.