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Maeda, Ellis find rhythm in bullpen session

MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The change of pace is proving to be a good thing for Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old right-hander threw 40 pitches to catcher A.J. Ellis in his second official bullpen session since signing an eight-year contract in January. On Sunday, he threw 39 pitches to Yasmani Grandal.

PHOENIX -- The change of pace is proving to be a good thing for Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old right-hander threw 40 pitches to catcher A.J. Ellis in his second official bullpen session since signing an eight-year contract in January. On Sunday, he threw 39 pitches to Yasmani Grandal.

Overall, Maeda has thrown four bullpens this spring.

"I know about his fastball command and I've seen evidence of his slider and how devastating his slider can be, but I was impressed with his changeup and his ability to throw that today with the quality of depth he had with it and really command it in the middle of the plate," Ellis said. "We talked for a while afterwards about what an important weapon that can be for him this year."

Maeda said he used his changeup regularly in Japan. He will likely use it more often, especially against left-handed hitters, after speaking with Ellis. The pair also discussed where Maeda likes catchers to set up behind the plate.

"It's been fun the last couple of days getting to know him as a teammate and getting to know him in the pitcher-catcher setting; he was very impressive," Ellis said. "He's obviously very polished and he understands how he wants to work in a bullpen-type session. The command was off the charts. It was very similar to what I saw in the video after we signed him."

The biggest adjustment for Maeda remains pitching every five days in the Major Leagues, compared with once every seven days in Japan. The ball used in the Major Leagues is also slightly larger than the ball used in Japan. One of the biggest surprises for Maeda is the shorter practices. Maeda's teams ran more and took more ground balls in Japan, he said.

Maeda was asked if he enjoyed the shorter practices.

"Yes," he said in English. "Because I can relax, too," Maeda added through a translator.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, A.J. Ellis, Kenta Maeda