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Kenta Maeda's 4-pitch mix draws Zack Greinke comp

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- Nobody reasonably expects Kenta Maeda to fully replace Zack Greinke for the Dodgers, perhaps other than in the literal sense of Maeda occupying a spot in the starting rotation that Greinke once did. But after Maeda faced live hitters for the first time this spring, catcher Yasmani Grandal couldn't help but compare the two pitchers.

"He's a guy who can throw four pitches," Grandal said. "Zack Greinke last year threw four pitches."

Maeda threw 38 pitches in two simulated innings on Monday, facing Yasiel Puig, Chase Utley, Carl Crawford, Charlie Culberson and others. Maeda through a translator said he thought he performed well, and though facing teammates was something he also did in Japan there is still a mental barrier when throwing to those on your own side.

"It's kind of hard to throw inside, but other than that I don't mind it," Maeda said.

However hard it was, Maeda was able to throw inside, Grandal said. He was able to throw just about everywhere.

"He's a four-pitch guy. You don't get too many of those. It's going to be fun to work with him," Grandal said. "The good thing about him is that he can throw all his pitches in or out. He's not afraid. Whenever he wants to dial it up, he can."

Grandal said Maeda can get up to 94-95 mph up in the zone, but sticks to 90-92 mph when keeping the ball down. While Maeda's slider wasn't working so much on Monday, his curveball and changeup were both effective.

That mix of pitches was what drew the Greinke comparison from Grandal, not necessarily that Maeda would put up a 1.66 ERA this season or anything. But Greinke, like Maeda, had four pitches he could throw just about anywhere, and Grandal sees more of the same in Maeda.

"He's had a pretty good track record in Japan. There have been a lot of Japanese players come over here and do a great job. As far as building a game plan and getting creative, doing whatever we want to do, there is a comparison [to Greinke]," Grandal said. "With [Maeda] it's just going to be rocking hitters back and forth, inside and outside."

Up next for Maeda will be a start on Saturday at Camelback Ranch, his Cactus League debut. There was some talk of easing Maeda's transition from pitching every seven days to every five days with a progressive schedule this spring. But his first start comes on four days rest, like ripping a band aid clean off in one swoop.

"I think we'll stick to the schedule, but it's going to require me to be a little bit flexible," Maeda said. "We'll see how it goes down the road."

Maeda will face the Diamondbacks in that start on Saturday, just missing another four-pitch pitcher.

Way to ruin the narrative.