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Maeda's relief debut is a 4-inning, 6-K save

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda, removed from the starting rotation on Wednesday, made his relief debut on Friday night with a four-inning save in the Dodgers' 7-2 win over the Reds, duplicating the four-inning save in the relief debut of Hyun-Jin Ryu on May 25.

Like Ryu, Maeda wasn't thrilled with the demotion. Unlike Ryu -- whose bullpen role ended after that one appearance because he went back into the rotation to replace the injured Alex Wood -- Maeda might be a reliever for a while in what manager Dave Roberts calls a "tandem" situation, a hybrid role the Dodgers have defaulted to because of so many short starts.

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LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda, removed from the starting rotation on Wednesday, made his relief debut on Friday night with a four-inning save in the Dodgers' 7-2 win over the Reds, duplicating the four-inning save in the relief debut of Hyun-Jin Ryu on May 25.

Like Ryu, Maeda wasn't thrilled with the demotion. Unlike Ryu -- whose bullpen role ended after that one appearance because he went back into the rotation to replace the injured Alex Wood -- Maeda might be a reliever for a while in what manager Dave Roberts calls a "tandem" situation, a hybrid role the Dodgers have defaulted to because of so many short starts.

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"It was my first experience out of the bullpen, and I thought I was able to prepare well today," said Maeda, who followed Rich Hill's five-inning start. "As a starter, you have a set routine and an exact time to do things. As a reliever, you don't know if you'll pitch that day. It was a little more challenging. Today it was more about getting quick outs and making sure pitch count was low."

Maeda was bumped from the rotation because Wood returns to start on Saturday.

"I was a starter all my life," said Maeda, who won 16 games last year as an MLB rookie, "and it was disappointing. The best situation is that with good results, I'll be back in the rotation."

Roberts didn't go quite that far.

"Unless something unforeseen happens to a starter, he'll be in this role," Roberts said. "We'll try to keep as close to his turn and put him in situations where he can eat up four or five innings."

That said, Roberts and Maeda agreed that the right-hander was more impressive Friday night and more aggressive than he'd been in his starts.

"I thought he threw the baseball as well as he has this season," said Roberts. "The fastball got to 94, the slider was sharp, he was striking the breaking ball early and he was filling up the strike zone. A lot of good from Kenta."

Roberts suggested that with only four innings left, Maeda attacked hitters and didn't try to pace himself, and Maeda, who struck out six and allowed one run on three hits (all in the ninth) seemed to agree.

"I was aware [I'd pitch] at most four innings, so I put a little more effort into the first inning and went ahead and got things done," Maeda said. "As a starter, you think about pitching longer innings, so maybe I was a little hesitant pitching into the first inning [starting]. As a middle reliever, you don't think about that so maybe it was something I can take away from today."

Roberts also offered that Maeda, like Ryu with his demotion, has something to prove.

"Kenta's very competitive," he said. "When it happened to Ryu you saw him out of the 'pen and what he did in his start once Woody got hurt. Kenta wanted to show he's worthy of another opportunity in the rotation. Today in that small sample is more what we need to see from Kenta. It was really good."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda