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Early schedule creates ‘awkward situation’ for Dodgers starting rotation

Off days & rain make for extra rest days

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — A brief two-game interleague series against the A’s means the Dodgers this week have off days on both Monday and Thursday, giving them three scheduled off days in an eight-day span. The result is extra rest for the entire rotation.

The Dodgers will start Kenta Maeda on Friday against Arizona followed by Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw to complete the weekend series at Dodger Stadium. Hill and Kershaw will be starting on six full days rest.

“The early frontloaded off days, then the rainout made it an awkward situation for all the starters. This will be the only time [Kershaw will] have the extra couple of days, which he doesn’t like nor does any starting pitcher,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It was a way we could sort of manage those three guys.”

The one who was most affected by the early schedule is Maeda, who has pitched all of one inning since his start on March 31 in the third game of the season. Friday’s start will be 13 days after his previous start.

The rainout on Friday in San Francisco washed away a scheduled Maeda start, and instead he was made available over the weekend out of the bullpen, where he thrived at the end of 2017 and into the postseason. He pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday in relief against the Giants.

Maeda won’t be available to pitch in relief during this two-game series against Oakland.

Every missed start for Maeda likely affects his wallet since he is on one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball, in the third season of an eight-year deal that guaranteed him all of $25 million total. Maeda can earn up to $10.15 million annually in performance bonuses but they are all based on starts and innings:

  • $150,000 for making the opening day 25-man active roster
  • $1 million for 15 & 20 games started
    $1.5 million for 25, 30 & 32 games started
  • $250,000 for 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180 & 190 innings pitched
    $750,000 for 200 innings pitched

Maeda pitched 175⅔ innings in 2016 and earned $8.9 million in bonuses, including a good-faith $1.5 million for his 32nd start in a meaningless final day of the regular season. Last year Maeda was down to just 25 starts and 134⅓ innings, and earned $4.9 million in bonuses.

At a projected roughly $182 million in competitive balance tax payroll to start the season, the Dodgers still have some wiggle room before hitting the $197 million threshold, including room for contract incentives like Maeda and others plus potential midseason trades.

After Thursday’s off day the Dodgers play 12 games in 13 days and 22 games in a 24-day stretch.

“Just to get a little normalcy and traction and consistency of playing, we’re all looking forward to it,” Roberts said.