Kenta Maeda Finds Comfort in Knowing His Role with the Minnesota Twins
Image courtesy of © Jake Roth-USA TODAY SportsRegarding his position with his new team, Maeda stated through his interpreter, “It’s been discussed that (I’ll) be starting in the rotation, so (I’m) really glad to hear that.”
For Maeda, the past three seasons in a Dodgers uniform have followed the same path. Each year he has started in the rotation, pitched well for 20-25 starts, until August when the team would transition him into a bullpen role and would use him as such in the playoffs as a setup man for Kenley Jansen.
In his time in the bullpen, Maeda has been lights out, posting a 3.19 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and an extraordinary 34.5 K%. In the postseason, his relief numbers have been even better, where he has put up a 1.62 ERA in 22 2/3 innings over the past three postseasons.
While he has had tremendous success as a relief pitcher, and the Dodgers were extremely successful with him in this role, Maeda has been very vocal about his frustration with this pitching arrangement. In a piece from Andy McCullough of The Athletic, Maeda’s agent, Joel Wolfe, had to say of the pitching arrangement, “Kenta wants to make 30 starts, 32 starts during the season. He would prefer not to be constantly shuttled to the bullpen and back. He doesn’t like it.”
Maeda has plenty of reason to desire a full-time starting pitcher role. For one, his contract heavily rewards him starting games and racking up innings pitched. By moving Maeda to the bullpen each of the past three years, Maeda has missed out on millions of dollars by missing out on contract incentives. Additionally, being a starting pitcher is a point of pride for the Japanese right-hander. In Japan, Maeda won the Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent to the Cy Young Award, twice for his performance as a starting pitcher. To now come to the United States and get his role shifted every year and lose that starting pitcher identity has been a big disappointment for Maeda.
Fast forward to February of 2020, and Maeda now finds himself in a situation with the Minnesota Twins where he projects to be a key piece of the starting rotation for years to come. Derek Falvey confirmed as much when he spoke of Maeda's positional future with the Twins.
"Our view is that he's going to come here and be in our starting rotation," Falvey said.
Maeda provides the Twins with the top-end pitching that they had been seeking as well as the depth that they had been lacking. He will be relied upon heavily as a starting pitcher to get the Twins through the regular season and win them games in the postseason.
“The family is really happy that the Twins needed (me) as a starting pitcher," Maeda said. "That’s the most important part. Both (my family and I) are really happy to hear this news.”
Getting traded to the Minnesota Twins represents more to Maeda than a new city or a new uniform, it represents a new beginning. Maeda has been seeking an opportunity with a club that will allow him to showcase his skills as a starting pitcher for a full season, and the Minnesota Twins are finally giving him that opportunity. Twins Nation is surely looking forward to seeing what he does with this opportunity.
What are your thoughts on Maeda’s comments this morning regarding his role with the Minnesota Twins? What expectations do you have from Maeda out of the rotation in 2020? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
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