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Dodgers like what they're seeing from Kenta Maeda out of the bullpen

Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda faced as many media scrums as opposing hitters Saturday night.

Between his two separate chats with foreign reporters and the local press, Maeda chuckled. After logging just two-thirds of an inning, he wasn't expecting to be the center of attention postgame.

But, on a night when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wanted to "check boxes" on his postseason prep plan, Maeda crossed an important item off the list. For the first time since being moved to the bullpen at the start of September, the right-hander pitched on back-to-back nights. He had no hiccups Saturday, retiring both batters he faced.

"First time being able to go back-to-back," Maeda said through a translator, "I thought that was important."

For the third straight October, Maeda will be a reliever during the playoffs. He could prove to be an important linchpin in a Dodgers bullpen currently dealing with shaky performances from closer Kenley Jansen and lingering body soreness from set-up man Joe Kelly, and that is relying on a collection of young middle relievers. Pitching on consecutive nights might be the least of Maeda's responsibilities when the postseason begins. "It was good for him, and it was good for us to see it," Roberts said. "He did great."

Maeda's back-to-back was by design. After tossing a scoreless inning Friday night, the 31-year-old needed just 10 pitches to retire Colorado Rockies hitters Josh Fuentes and Tony Wolters in the ninth inning Saturday. Afterward, Roberts said he won't intentionally pitch Maeda -- who has a 4.38 ERA in 12 1/3 innings out of the bullpen this month -- on consecutive nights again in the regular season.

 

"Now that we've done the back-to-back, I think it satisfies us (and) Kenta," Roberts said. "I thought he was good tonight. ... To go out there and take down a couple hitters was a good thing."

Maeda has pitched on back-to-back nights three times in the past two postseasons, including a flat one-run, two-hit outing in the decisive ninth inning in Game 4 of last year's World Series.

He encountered no such problems this weekend.

"I feel wholly prepared," Maeda said. "I'm ready to go."

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