May 04, 2014

MIAMI -- Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda figures to be a rested and dangerous pitcher on Sunday against the Miami Marlins.

Maeda will be pitching on six days' rest, which was pretty much his schedule in his native Japan.

The 28-year-old is 14-8 this season with a 3.29 ERA. But in starts where he pitches on at least five days rest, he is even better (3.14 ERA in 89 innings).

"With the extra day, Kenta has performed," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But whatever situation we put him in, he is going to perform."

Indeed, if not for Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, Maeda would likely be the National League Rookie of the Year. Seager is hitting .318 with 39 doubles, three triples and 66 RBIs.

It has been 20 years since the Dodgers have had one of their players win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Consider that two-decade drought over. It will be Seager.

Perhaps it is fitting that Seager and Maeda are considered the NL's top two rookies this year because the Dodgers have prided themselves on their minor-league system for decades.

Starting in 1992, the Dodgers' organization burst with pride, producing five straight Rookie of the Year winners. That fab five consisted of first baseman Eric Karros in '92 followed by catcher and eventual Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, outfielder Raul Mondesi, pitcher Hideo Nomo and outfielder Todd Hollandsworth.

Since the NL started honoring its top rookies in 1949, no other organization has ever won that award more than two years in a row.

In fact, the Dodgers had streaks of more than two in a row twice -- 92-96 and also 79-82. That latter streak included pitchers Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe and Fernando Valenzuela as well as second baseman Steve Sax.

Seager and Maeda fit in just fine with all those names. And Maeda has fit seamlessly into the rotation of the Dodgers, who have gone 17-10 in games he has started.

Another win could be coming Sunday as the Dodgers face Marlins rookie right-hander Jose Urena, who is 3-6 with a 5.54 ERA.

Urena lost his most recent outing 4-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

"It seemed like Jose was up in the zone more than we had seen in his previous couple of outings," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He had more unfavorable counts, more off-speed up in the zone -- stuff like that."

If "stuff like that" continues Sunday, that could be another loss for the Marlins (70-72), who already have been projected to have less than a two percent chance of making this year's playoffs. Miami has lost 11 of its past 15 games.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers (80-61) have a comfortable lead in the NL West, and they just got outfielder Andre Ethier (broken leg) off the disabled list for the first time all year.

It's possible that the left-handed-hitting Ethier could make his first start of the year against Urena.

The return of Ethier is a boost to the Dodgers, who have placed 28 different players on the disabled list this year, the most in the majors since at least 1987.

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