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Maeda unleashes 4-pitch mix in BP session

Japanese right-hander impressive while facing hitters for first time
MLB.com @kengurnick

PHOENIX -- Shortly after right-hander Zack Greinke signed with the D-backs in free agency, the Dodgers signed Japanese free agent Kenta Maeda, and guess who Maeda was compared to after he threw live batting practice for the first time on Monday?

"The reason I compare him to Greinke is that he's got a four-pitch mix," Yasmani Grandal said after catching Maeda's two innings. "Obviously, they are two different pitchers. But you can build a game plan around four pitches and be creative, that's the comparison."

PHOENIX -- Shortly after right-hander Zack Greinke signed with the D-backs in free agency, the Dodgers signed Japanese free agent Kenta Maeda, and guess who Maeda was compared to after he threw live batting practice for the first time on Monday?

"The reason I compare him to Greinke is that he's got a four-pitch mix," Yasmani Grandal said after catching Maeda's two innings. "Obviously, they are two different pitchers. But you can build a game plan around four pitches and be creative, that's the comparison."

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Grandal said Maeda hit 94-95 mph with fastballs up in the zone and was around 90-92 mph low in the zone. He said the right-hander's slider wasn't particularly sharp, as often is the case in the desert, but Maeda's curveball was effective. Maeda relied on two-seam fastballs against right-handed hitters and four-seam fastballs against left-handed hitters.

"I see him rocking batters back and forth, slow and fast, inside and outside," Grandal said. "It's going to be fun to work with him."

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Maeda said he is looking forward to his first Cactus League start, which manager Dave Roberts said will come on Saturday. Maeda said his transition from Japan to the Major Leagues hasn't presented any particular challenges.

"Overall," Maeda said, "I've adjusted pretty well. Nothing has given me trouble."

Chase Utley, one of the hitters to face Maeda, said the right-hander was "exceptionally deceptive."

"I thought he was good," said Utley. "He had fastball command, a slider and changeup. The life on his fastball was very good for a first outing, for sure."

Howie Kendrick said Maeda's fastball had a lot of life up in the zone.

"The pitches were coming out really good," Kendrick said. "He was mixing his pitches. He had good stuff."

Maeda, who turns 28 in April, helps the Dodgers patch up the hole left by the departure of Greinke to Arizona, and he is the only healthy right-hander in a rotation that also includes lefties Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood.

Also throwing to hitters on Monday were lefty phenom Julio Urias, Jose De Leon and Chris Anderson.

Carl Crawford, who hit off Maeda and Urias, was just as impressed with the 20-year-old lefty.

"The young guy was really firm and hard," said Crawford. "He was throwing by guys -- that's a sign of a hard thrower. I didn't know he threw that hard."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenta Maeda