MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday, and it’s been a whirlwind 10 days for Kenta Maeda.
The Japanese pitcher who was with the L.A. Dodgers last season was part of a three-team trade with the Boston Red Sox and Twins, which initially sent hard-throwing Twins’ reliever Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox. That move fell through due to medical issues on the Red Sox end, so the Twins went directly to business with the Dodgers.
At the time, Maeda was getting ready for Spring Training with the Dodgers in Arizona. Speaking through an interpreter Thursday morning, he’s ready to get to work with the Twins in Fort Myers.
“My family is really happy that the Twins needed me as a starting pitcher and that’s the most important part. Both me and my family are really happy to hear this news,” Maeda said.
While it’s not guaranteed, Maeda is most likely to start the season as the No. 3 pitcher in the starting rotation behind Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Maeda, a left-hander, finished 10-8 in 37 games, including 26 starts, with a 4.04 earned run average, 169 strikeouts and 51 walks in 153 2/3 innings last season. He brings big-time playoff experience to the Twins, who have a no-so-great history with the postseason.
He'll enjoy the Florida sunshine for now, but Maeda will have some transitioning to do when the Twins come north for the regular season. He doesn’t speak a lot of English, and will be looking for the best Japanese restaurants in Minneapolis.
His first major order of business when it became official he was joining the Twins? His jersey number. He wanted No. 18, which is traditional for Japanese ace pitchers to wear. The problem: Mitch Garver wore No. 18 last season for the Twins, and the best season of his career.
If it means more wins and Maeda feeling more comfortable, Garver was happy to hand the number over.
“I was simply just really happy to be wearing No. 18 and really appreciative of the gesture of Mitch. He’s a great player and just to have that gesture as a welcoming to be part of the Twins is awesome,” Maeda said.
Maeda has never been to Minnesota and said all he knows is “It’s cold.” That was never truer than Thursday, with temperatures hovering near zero in the Twin Cities.
He won’t have to wait very long to face his former team. The Twins hit the West Coast for the first interleague series of the season at the end of April, at Dodger Stadium.