Maeda, who is 16-9 with a 3.20 earned-run average this season, last pitched six days ago. He allowed two earned runs in five innings that day against the Giants at Dodger Stadium, striking out six batters in an eventual 9-3 win.
Maeda has been excellent in 12 starts on five days’ rest this season — 6-3 with a 2.79 ERA, compared to 10-6 with a 3.46 ERA in his other 18 starts.
That could be the thinking driving the decision to switch the two pitchers. De Leon, 2-0 with a 5.52 ERA in three major league starts, last pitched Sept. 18, when he was tagged for six runs in 3 ⅔ innings in Arizona.
The switch also affords Maeda an opportunity to start in the regular season finale Sunday in San Francisco should the Dodgers choose. Had he started Wednesday, that would not have been an option for a pitcher who’s never started on fewer than four days’ rest this season (if not his entire career).
What’s more, Maeda is due a $1.5 million performance bonus for starting 32 games this season. Tonight marks his 31st start this year. He’s already unlocked $8.65 million in performance bonuses this season, and will get another $250,000 if he pitches at least one inning tonight, giving him 170 for the season.
Update (6:15 p.m.): Roberts said the switch was based on Maeda’s desire to pitch twice before the regular season ends: