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Kenta Maeda Finds Comfort in Knowing His Role with the Minnesota Twins

Kenta Maeda touched down in Fort Myers today and met with the media for the first time as a member of the Minnesota Twins. While Maeda noted that he is excited about his new club and new teammates, he made clear that he is most excited to finally have a clear and defined role with the Minnesota Twins.
Image courtesy of © Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Regarding 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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11 Comments

So what's the rotation going to be when Michael Pineda & Rich Hill come back? Obviously your first thought would be Dobnak or whoever is the 5th starter gets pushed to the pen when Pineda gets activated. Then how do they use Hill.

 

It's a good problem to technically think we will have too many starters.

    • DocBauer likes this
Glad he wants to be a starter and has confidence in himself.

But what happens when the postseason rotation shrinks to 3? If healthy and pitching as expected Berrios, Odo, Pineda and Hill all could be better than him.

So long as they let him make his 30 starts/get his incentives in the regular season will he be happy with going back to the bullpen?
    • wabene and IAMNFan like this

If this is Falvey's idea of top-end, it is sure not the same as my idea of top-end. I hope he proves it, becomes it..... top-end that is.

 

"Maeda provides the Twins with the top-end pitching that they had been seeking"

 

He got the number he wanted. He got the role he wanted. I hope he gives us what we all want and were promised. Here's to Kenta. Just do it!

Good post free agency pickup for Twins, needed more certainty at starting pitching. Maeda not an ace but solid midrotayion addition. 

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Richard Swerdlick
Feb 14 2020 04:23 AM

I hope the season long starting pitcher role works out for Madea. However the reality is that come late in the season, If we need him in the bullpen............

    • FritzDahmus likes this
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twinssporto
Feb 14 2020 04:29 AM

This was a great pickup for the Twins. Excited to watch him pitch this year. 

 

Is it opening day yet?! I can hardly wait for the season to start.

    • Heistyman and Sconnie like this

Did he really think the Twins gave up their 3rd best prospect and more to bring him in as a set up guy? Sounds like one humble guy :)

If this is Falvey's idea of top-end, it is sure not the same as my idea of top-end. I hope he proves it, becomes it..... top-end that is.

"Maeda provides the Twins with the top-end pitching that they had been seeking"

He got the number he wanted. He got the role he wanted. I hope he gives us what we all want and were promised. Here's to Kenta. Just do it!

I believe those were the writers words.
I doubt Falvey views him as a 1 or 2.
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Channing1964
Feb 14 2020 06:38 PM
I feel like that was a pretty darn good move to make after we lost out on all the other "top end" free agent pitchers. If you look at his career, I wouldnt be surprised to see Maeda outperform Berrios, Odorizzi, and others like Wheeler, Bumgarner and Ryu. If he slots in somewhere like 3 or 4 then I am excited. I was not that high on this free agent class of starting pitchers anyway after Cole and Strasburg. We could have absolutely done worse, or nothing at all. I like Maeda.
    • SQUIRREL, DocBauer and 4twinsJA like this

 Only locks barring injury for early season rotation are Berrios, Odorizzi, and Maeda beyond that who ever looks good in spring training between Bailey, Chacin, Thorpe, Dobnak, Smeltzer. When Pineda comes back he will be near lock to be in rotation so only one rotation spot to fill for whoever has earned it at that point. FO has down well not putting all their eggs in one basket. Hopefully one or two of these pitchers separate themselves from the others and makes the decisions easier.

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Nine of twelve
Feb 15 2020 11:42 AM

 

Glad he wants to be a starter and has confidence in himself.

But what happens when the postseason rotation shrinks to 3? If healthy and pitching as expected Berrios, Odo, Pineda and Hill all could be better than him.

So long as they let him make his 30 starts/get his incentives in the regular season will he be happy with going back to the bullpen?

Postseason rotations in the modern era comprise four pitchers.