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Kenta Maeda settles down, settles in for Dodgers

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- The first three Mariners hitters of the game got hits against Kenta Maeda, and two of them scored, but then the Dodgers starter went to work and was very effective over five innings in his longest start to date this spring.

Maeda fell behind 2-0 after just three batters, but then proceeded to induce a double play grounder and retired 14 of his final 15 batters faced, including five by strikeout.

"Physically I'm where I wanted to be, and I was able to execute pretty well," Maeda said after his outing, through a translator. "I focused on locating my pitches low in the strike zone."

That helped Maeda induce seven ground ball outs compared to just one fly out, and didn't walk a batter. He has 13 strikeouts against four walks in 13⅔ innings this spring, allowing four runs (two earned) on 11 hits for a 1.32 ERA.

"He settled in well. He was pitching down, up, changing speeds, working in and out. He's a competitor," manager Dave Roberts said. "His pitchability is off the charts. What was actually encouraging is that he shook a couple times to get to a certain pitch. Getting into the at-bat, seeing hitters swing, and making that adjustment. When we get into the season, he's going to be that much better."

Maeda has been one of the bright spots of spring so far for the Dodgers, thanks in part to some advice he got from fellow countryman Hisashi Iwakuma, who started for the Mariners on Monday. Maeda downplayed the matchup of Japanese pitchers, though said it might have led to overthrowing early, when he allowed the three hits to open the game.

"I felt good physically, so I think I exerted more than usual," Maeda said. "Today was a bit more exciting than a usual start."

With so many injuries in the Dodgers starting rotation, including the scramble for the fifth slot, Maeda said he didn't feel any extra pressure to perform, but rather was even more focused on his own work. "What's more important is to execute my plan and to be able to adjust," Maeda said. "Commanding my pitches is going to be important and having a feel for them and to locate where I want to locate."

On Monday he was able to do just that.

Turner on fire

Maeda said he regretted not getting to hit against Iwakuma, but also, laughing, admitted that he had no chance to duplicate the Dodgers' starting designated hitter on Monday.

Justin Turner started at designated hitter and homered in the first inning. He then doubled in a run in both the third and fifth innings. In five Cactus League games, Turner is 7-for-12 (.583) with four doubles and a home run.

Last year, the Dodgers had three regular season games of a player hitting two doubles and a home run, twice by Turner. Scott Van Slyke had the other such game.

Up next

The Dodgers begin a stretch that starts to look a little more like the regular season with a 6:05 p.m. PT start on Tuesday night against the Royals in Surprise. It is the first of five night games in a seven-day stretch for the Dodgers, who will send Alex Wood to the mound. Kansas City will counter with Chris Young.

The game against the Royals will be televised on SportsNet LA, but will also be available live on MLB Network in the Los Angeles and Anaheim markets with no blackouts.