Kenta Maeda has yet to throw an official pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they're already swooning over their latest import.
Maeda attempts to begin living up to those lofty expectations as he tries to help the Dodgers complete a season-opening three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.
Maeda went 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA in 218 career games over eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. The right-hander was particularly dominant over the second half of that stretch, compiling a 2.07 ERA and a 55-31 record.
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That was impressive enough for Los Angeles to pay a $20 million posting fee and sign Maeda to an eight-year, $25 million contract over the winter.
So far, the Dodgers think that's a bargain after Maeda posted a 2.35 ERA in six starts during spring training.
"He's as good, if not better, than advertised," manager Dave Roberts told MLB's official website. "His transition to this point has been pretty seamless."
Maeda allowed two runs and three hits in four innings in his final spring outing against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
"Physically I feel great. I feel pretty confident about my pitches," Maeda said through a translator. "I've been able to throw the way I wanted to throw. I'm ready to go."
He should be considering the Padres have only managed six hits through the first two games. Clayton Kershaw limited them to one in seven innings of Monday's 15-0 victory before Scott Kazmir did the same over six in a 3-0 win the following day in his Dodgers debut.
"I don't think this is the way anyone draws it up," Padres manager Andy Green said. "This isn't what we are looking to do. But it happens when guys want it really bad. Every single guy wants to break the seal for us and get us going and it just hasn't happened for us yet."
Success at the plate is usually fleeting against the Dodgers, who have won eight straight meetings against San Diego behind a 1.38 ERA with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
In fact, the last time Los Angeles started a season with a three-game winning streak, it came in 2012 at Petco Park.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is off to a strong start in his first full season in the majors, going 4 for 9 with two doubles and two RBIs. He's 13 for 30 with four doubles, one homer and seven RBIs in eight career meetings with the Padres.
Andrew Cashner takes the ball looking to slow Seager and the Dodgers in his season debut. He has a 2.08 ERA in 10 starts against them, but only has a 1-4 record to show for it since he's been backed by 16 total runs.
The right-hander went 6-16 with a 4.34 ERA last year, matching his loss total from the two previous seasons.
Cashner had a 4.64 ERA in six starts during spring training. He allowed one run and two hits in three innings of his final tune-up Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
"I liked the way he was as much as I've liked him at any other time, especially the way he finished up," Green said. "... I thought his fastball location was as good as it's been all spring, and I liked where his sinker was."