Twins Pitcher "Hyped Up" In First Game In 18 Months

It was August of 2021. That's the last time the Minnesota Twins' former Cy Young runner-up, 34-year-old veteran right-handed starter Kenta Maeda pitched in a major league game. 

Sure, this was just one inning in a spring training game on Saturday, but Maeda couldn't have been more thrilled to once again experience not only pitching in a Twins uniform, but everything else that goes along with it. 

It was really fun to be able to pitch today, starting with the preparation,” Maeda told Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic through interpreter Dai Sekizaki. “Listening to the national anthem, hearing my walk-up song, giving high fives in the dugout with my teammates before I took the mound. All of that got me hyped up. I’m really glad I was able to come back.”

Maeda missed the last year and a half recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had his fastball back up to 90.3 mph, only one mile per hour behind what it was during his 2020 Cy Young runner-up season. 

After his 2.70 ERA and 0.75 WHIP that year, he struggled throughout 2021, pitching through elbow soreness to a 4.66 ERA, before being shut down after 21 starts, heading under the knife. 

Now that he's recovered, the healing process from a mental standpoint is taking place. “Just a relief to be able to come back with a scoreless (inning),” Maeda said. “And then once I was back in the dugout, my teammates would welcome me back and that was a really great feeling. I’m excited to be back with the guys.”

Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports