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  • Kenta Maeda On Track For 2022 Return


    Cody Christie

    Returning from Tommy John surgery can take many pitchers close to a year. Kenta Maeda had surgery in September, and he's on track to be back on the mound in 2022. 

     

    Image courtesy of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

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    When Kenta Maeda had Tommy John surgery in September, it seemed likely to count him out of the team's starting rotation for the entire 2022 season. Now that might not be the case as he told Japanese reporters that he hopes to be back on the mound in September. According to the article, Maeda is on pace to start playing catch in mid-February. Hopefully, he will be playing catch as part of spring training, but the MLB lockout would need to be over for spring training to start on time. 

    Another reason for optimism with Maeda's recovery is an adjustment made to his Tommy John surgery. Maeda had a brace added to the impacted elbow to speed up his recovery time. This newer development can cut the recovery time from the standard 12-16 months to 9-12 months. Nine months after his surgery puts him on the mound in June, while 12 months would be September. At the time of the surgery, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said he is "hopeful for sure" that the right-hander will see the mound next year.

    It will be intriguing to see how the Twins treat Maeda's recovery. By September, the team will know if they are in or out of the playoff race. Maeda has a chance to provide a late-season boost for a contending team. If Minnesota is out of the race, Maeda may still want to get back into a big-league game to prove he is healthy.

    Minnesota's initial acquisition of Maeda looked like a solid move by the front office, especially for a team searching for starting pitching. Brusdar Graterol looked like he would be a reliever, and that's how the Dodgers have used him. There's no question that Maeda greatly impacted the Twins rotation during the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. 

    In 11 starts, he dominated by posting a 2.70 ERA with an MLB-best 0.75 WHIP. He compiled an 80-to-10 strikeout to walk ratio and had a 160 ERA+. He set career-best marks in multiple statistical categories, including ground-ball rate (49.0%), walk percentage (4.0%), strikeout percentage (32.3%), swinging-strike rate (17.2%), and opponents' chase rate (40.8%). At the season's end, he finished second to Cleveland's Shane Bieber in the AL Cy Young voting.

    Last season, Maeda experienced regression before being shut down with his elbow injury. In 21 starts (106 1/3 innings), he posted a 4.66 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and a 113-to-32 strikeout to walk ratio. Multiple reasons may factor into Maeda's struggles. His elbow may have been bothering him before he went on the IL, and MLB's crackdown on sticky substances may have impacted his spin rate

    Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan are the three pitchers penciled into next year's starting rotation. Maeda would undoubtedly provide a second-half boost if his rehab stays on track. Organizationally, many of Minnesota's top prospects are pitchers close to the big-league level. Late in the season can be a time for younger pitchers to prove they belong. Will Minnesota want to give Maeda starts over some of their top prospects? That is a question to be answered later this year. 

    Do you think Maeda makes an appearance with the 2022 Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    September rosters being limited as of last year changes the equation.  I think MLB made a mistake there and should have at least let teams add 5 players in September.  If we are out of it like many of us expect at this time our rookie pitchers will be at their inning limit and he would be fine to stretch out and show that he is back. 

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    I would think the Twins will want him to pitch a few games in September just to see how he looks, but I think that will depend on how he does in a rehab assignment.  If his rehab assignment goes well, he will get a few starts.  Pitchers vary so much in how they respond to the surgery it is very difficult to predict.  Maeda has some things going for him however.  He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and is very professional in his approach to the game.  I have no doubt he will do whatever he can to get back.  Also, as you mentioned, his surgery option using an internal brace is a little less invasive so it could theoretically allow him to get back quicker.  Cody, didn't Rich Hill opt for the internal brace procedure?  Do you know who else has followed this path?  Nice article, thanks.

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    I think at some point most pitchers think the will come back within a year of Tommy John. Very few ever make, let alone make it with their former "stuff".

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    6 hours ago, blindeke said:

    Does anyone think they'll be in playoff contention?

    Yes. I do.  But then I am optimistic about the Twins beginning  in late January and all of February and March this time every year as we start planning our  10 hour drive to Ft. Myers for early March spring training. Is it time to load the equipment trucks for Ft. Myers yet? 

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    I've been to Ft. Myers a few times and it was a great time.  The atmosphere was awesome and the game experience top notch.  I was going to plan on driving down this year again but the lockout happened.  It's hard to get excited about MLB right now with owners and players squabbling over how to split billions in revenue.  I hope they settle soon.

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