Maeda adds muscle, sets sights on 200 innings

Dodgers right-hander bolsters repertoire with cutter

February 16th, 2017

PHOENIX -- Making adjustments in baseball might sound like a catchphrase, until you consider the adjustments Dodgers pitcher is making for his second Major League season.

He's gained 10 pounds of muscle in the past year, thanks to a revamped conditioning and nutrition plan, and is working tirelessly on grips for a cutter he's added to his pitch repertoire.

Maeda had been training at Dodger Stadium for a month prior to arriving in camp, which is much different than his whirlwind arrival last spring. 

He said having already been through one season gives him a comfort level he didn't have last year when everything was new.

"It's much more smooth this year," he said. "I didn't get a good rhythm of my workouts last year. I had to do a lot of stuff I didn't know about. This year I've been able to do what I want to do and incorporate other stuff. This year I have a feel for what to do."

If Maeda was uncomfortable last year, it rarely showed on the field. He led a decimated Dodgers starting rotation last season in wins (16), starts (32), innings pitched (175 2/3) and strikeouts (179), while finishing third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, but is determined to show he has more to offer.

"My biggest goal this year is to pitch more innings," said Maeda, who had four 200-plus innings out of eight in Japan, but was handled cautiously by Dodgers management after he failed his initial physical with irregularities in his elbow and shoulder.

"I learned it's more difficult to pitch deeper into games here and I learned I need to be trusted so they let me go deep. This year I want to throw more innings overall, but definitely more innings per game and I want to stay in the rotation and be treated like everybody else."

Maeda accepted management's suggestion to gain weight for more durability, and he's up to 190 pounds, after checking in a year ago at 175. It is hoped the cutter gives Maeda a pitch that won't tail back over the plate against left-handed batters, who posted a .730 OPS against Maeda, compared to .580 for right-handed hitters.

Maeda said the weight gain has become a bigger story than it deserves, because it occurred over a year's time. The cutter, he hopes, will induce ground balls and allow him to save his changeup for swing-and-miss situations. He had already thrown three bullpen sessions at Dodger Stadium before Wednesday's 30-pitch session on the first official day of workouts.

Although Maeda finished the season with a 3.48 ERA, the club believes he fatigued in late September and the postseason, even though he never pitched more than seven innings in a start and often was given an extra day or two of rest between starts.

Maeda agreed he became vulnerable to lineups the third time around, but had a theory why.

"I didn't know the hitters; it was hard to figure out their tendencies," he said. "So, what I ended up doing was going all out in the beginning. Now that I know the hitters, maybe I can attack hitters more efficiently."