MILWAUKEE -- Kenta Maeda gets another start next weekend to find last year's form, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after another brief Maeda outing contributed to a 3-0 loss to the Brewers on Sunday at Miller Park.
But while explaining to Maeda on the bench why he was removed after four innings for the second consecutive start, Roberts seemingly put Maeda on notice that he needs to be better.
"We're going to run him out there in five days," Roberts said. "The conversation I had with him, it's not necessarily a short leash, it's where I don't really have an option. I'd like to see him go deep into games. When you get ahead of hitters like he does, you have to be able to put them away. I think he's a little afraid of contact, and there are a lot of non-competitive pitches when he gets ahead, and we've got to clean that up."
Maeda struck out seven in four innings, so there are times when he is very good at putting away hitters. But he issued two walks and hit a batter when he had been ahead in the count, 0-2. His first inning, which included a home run from Eric Thames, went 30 pitches. By the end of the fourth he was up to 92 and Roberts removed him, the third time in the last four games a Dodgers starter went only four innings.
"We're trying to put our finger on it," Roberts said. "It obviously taxes the 'pen. I know the will, the preparation is all there. He gets ahead of hitters, but to end the at-bat and put them away has escaped him. With that, he finds himself running high pitch counts and not getting too deep into games. He finds a way to settle in, but he's laboring each inning. To ask him to go out for fifth inning with 92 pitches doesn't make sense for our ball club.
"I want him to understand I have the confidence in him, but there's got to be something he's got to give me and the team to keep sending him out there … To be honest, Kenta's command was sporadic. Here it's about production, and we can't have those shorter outings. We've got to find some length."
Maeda said, "Maybe I was being a little too fine," when he got ahead of some hitters.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Maeda relies on an above-average slider, but the right-hander needs to have confidence in other weapons or he becomes too predictable to opposing hitters.
"He has the pitches," Honeycutt said. "We're just seeing inconsistency. He gets 0-2, next thing you know it's 3-2. You have two shots if you're going for a punchout, and you also have to be efficient. You can't keep running the count back to full. The situation doesn't always call for a strikeout. We need him to be a solid six-inning pitcher for us."
In 10 starts this year, Maeda has pitched more than five innings twice. After going 16-11 last year, he's 4-3 this year, while the Dodgers are 7-3 in his starts. But his 5.16 ERA this season pales in comparison to his 3.48 mark last season. He also has allowed nine home runs this season compared to 20 in 32 starts last year.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.