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Maeda 'glad to hear' Twins' plans for him

Right-hander will likely slot into rotation after bullpen stints in LA
@dohyoungpark
February 13, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kenta Maeda described his last week as a state of "limbo," with his agents telling him they weren't 100 percent sure that he had been traded while the standoff between the Twins, Dodgers and Red Sox dragged on. But the biggest hassle, he said, was that

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kenta Maeda described his last week as a state of "limbo," with his agents telling him they weren't 100 percent sure that he had been traded while the standoff between the Twins, Dodgers and Red Sox dragged on.

But the biggest hassle, he said, was that he had packed for Spring Training in Arizona and instead had to redirect everything to Florida for the first time in his career.

No matter: Maeda finally arrived in Fort Myers on Wednesday and beamed as he stood in front of American and Japanese media at Hammond Stadium on Thursday as part of his official introduction as a member of the Twins. He doesn't know much about his new pitching coach or where to find the best Japanese restaurants in the Twin Cities, but knows he's excited to be the newest member of the Minnesota community.

"All I know is that it's cold," Maeda said through interpreter Daichi Sekizaki.

Well, that, and more important, Maeda knows that he should have his desired opportunity to pitch more consistently out of the starting rotation. He spent extended stints of each of the last two seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Dodgers due to both the starting depth in Los Angeles and his own success in a relief capacity -- especially in the postseason.

"Not necessarily a guaranteed position, but it's been discussed that I'll be starting in the rotation, so I'm really glad to hear that," Maeda said.

Maeda started in 57 of his first 61 MLB appearances during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, but only 46 times in 76 games in '18 and '19.

That shouldn't be an issue in Minnesota, where front office leadership and manager Rocco Baldelli have indicated that they view Maeda as a starting option not just for the 2020 season, but for many years to come. The rotation will be a particular need for this club in the first half of the season as Michael Pineda continues serving his suspension and Rich Hill recovers from offseason left elbow surgery.

"Our view is he's going to come here and be in our starting rotation," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "Certainly, how that goes from that point forward is up to him -- how well he pitches and how he goes. [It's] ultimately up to Rocco and his staff how they're going to utilize him. But he wants to be a starting pitcher, and we believe he’s a starting pitcher. That’s our focus."

Maeda is under contract through the 2023 season, meaning that he could anchor the rotation alongside José Berríos throughout this window of contention.

"The comments that the GM and manager gave to me were very welcoming, so I'm really glad to hear that and honored to be a part of the Twins organization," Maeda said.

It would be beneficial to both club and player for Maeda to take full advantage of that starting gig: the Twins need the starting depth, and Maeda's incentive-laden contract can add up to $10 million every year, on top of his $3 million base salary, based on games-started and innings-pitched benchmarks.

Maeda should also fit right into the loose clubhouse atmosphere that Baldelli and his veterans have worked to create. Hill, Maeda's teammate in Los Angeles for the last four seasons, remembered with a laugh how Maeda would love to play pranks on his former interpreter, Will. (Sekizaki, who goes by "Dai," should probably watch out.) Hill also spoke highly of the passion Maeda should bring to the Twins' clubhouse.

"He has a consistent effort," Hill said. "He loves playing the game. You can see that when he's healthier. He cares. He cares a lot about his teammates. He cares a lot about going out there and performing well. That's all you can ask for a guy to bring into a clubhouse, is that consistency."

Maeda said he had never been to the Twin Cities, and it should certainly be an adjustment for him and his family after four years on the West Coast. But he's confident they'll manage just fine.

"My family is really happy that the Twins needed me as a starting pitcher," Maeda said. "That's the most important part. Both me and my family are really happy to hear this news.”

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.