FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Kenta Maeda got off to a memorable start for the Minnesota Twins, that’s for sure.
The Twins newcomer gave up a home run to Boston’s Andrew Benintendi to begin the game Monday, prompting the Japanese pitcher to laugh later.
“First time facing hitters so I just wanted to get that feel back,” Maeda said through an interpreter. “And I wasn’t scheduled to give up a home run on the first hitter, just so you know.”
Maeda threw 37 pitches in two innings, allowing two hits with one walk and one strikeout. The Twins won 3-2.
“Everything felt fine. Velocity is up there way more than I expected. It’s just the little things that need to be refined, adjusted,” he said.
It’s all about adjustments for Maeda right now.
Maeda, 32 in April, is entering his fifth MLB season after four with the Dodgers and eight years in Japan. He went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA last season for Los Angeles.
Minnesota acquired the right-hander earlier this month in a deal that sent its top pitching prospect, right-hander Brusdar Graterol, to the Dodgers. The move came after a three-team deal that included the Red Sox fell through.
After less than two weeks with his new team, Maeda is still settling in with the AL Central champions.
“It’s a fresh start, a new team and I’m simply very excited,” he said.
Maeda will be part of the Twins rotation after splitting last season between the rotation and bullpen for the Dodgers. But, it’s not just his on-field ability that intrigues the Twins.
“He’s experienced a lot of things in life, but also he’s pitched in some very unique situations and circumstances,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “So, I think as he gets to know the group, as the group really gets to know him, I think the exchange of, really, everything.”
“I hope there are plenty of conversations amongst all our players, not just our pitchers, with Kenta because I think he’s seen a lot and done a lot and these are things that can rub off on our guys in a really positive way,” he said.
Baldelli liked what he saw Monday.
“First outing today with a new team, in front of a new group, a lot of firsts. Even though he’s a veteran, they’re still firsts. All that being said, it’s been about as smooth as you could ask for,” he said.
“I think he’s very comfortable in his surroundings over here,” Baldelli said. “We have a pretty relaxed clubhouse. So whatever somebody needs to do to put themselves in a good place, we want to offer them that and give them every opportunity to be comfortable in their own skin and not feel like there are any crazy expectations as far as what we’re going to ask them to do.”
Maeda expects working with new catchers will be just as smooth. Alex Avila, also in his first season with the Twins and the likely backup for incumbent Mitch Garver, was behind the plate for this game.
“Not worried at all,” Maeda said. “We have great catchers here. I’m sure I’ll be throwing to all of them and we just need to communicate more. I don’t think it’s a warning factor.”
How long does it take him to get comfortable with a new catcher?
“First time,” he said. “Obviously, that’s with all the practices we go through in spring training. First game, I’m good.”
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