Maeda update; Jax honored; Moran dons 21

September 16th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey had expressed the hope that might be back on the mound for the Twins at some point in 2022, but the right-hander's only focus is on making sure his recovery process from Tommy John surgery has him primed for several more years on the mound.

"I have no expectation to rush myself going back on the mound," Maeda said. "I want to take my time to rehab and come back stronger than ever. ... If I can pitch in 2022, that’d be great. But is that a must? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think what’s important here is to fully recover, and if I’m in a condition to be able to pitch, I’ll pitch."

Because Maeda received an internal brace in his right elbow -- a newer development in the field -- when he underwent Tommy John surgery with Dr. Keith Meister on Sept. 1, the Twins said that Maeda's path to recovery could be abbreviated to 9-12 months from the standard 12-16 months for a normal Tommy John surgery.

But Maeda himself had gone into the procedure prepared to spend the entire 2022 season on recovery, if needed, and he said that he would leave his recovery timeline on how his body responded to each stage of the rehab process.

"I think I have several years left in my tank in terms of pitching, so I want to rehab correctly and build up strength so when I come back, I’ll be pitching better than before for the next couple years," Maeda said. "That’s where the motivation comes in."

The 33-year-old will begin his recovery by staying in Dallas through the end of October. He had his stitches removed on Tuesday and was given the go-ahead to begin cardio, and he's encouraged by the opportunity to work out with Blue Jays pitcher Kirby Yates, who also underwent Tommy John surgery with the internal brace and is sharing a rehab facility with Maeda.

It's certainly going to be a challenge and long road ahead for the previously durable right-hander, who said the longest he'd been sidelined from pitching had been maybe a 10-day period before this season. But he's armed with plenty of Netflix and good cheer as he embarks on this next step with the support of the Twins.

"There will be times I think where I’m going to feel a little frustrated because I won’t be playing or pitching in a game," Maeda said. "The only thing I can do is just watch, so there will be ups and downs."

Jax named recipient of Bob Feller Act of Valor Award
The combination of love for baseball and service to the United States was important for the late Bob Feller -- and Twins rookie right-hander Griffin Jax embodies that to the fullest extent as the first graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy to play in the Major Leagues.

In recognition of that, Jax was named the 2021 MLB winner of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award in a pregame ceremony before the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against Cleveland, becoming the first Twins player to win the honor since the award was established in 2013.

Jax completed his required two years of active duty in the Air Force in 2019 and transferred to the Air Force Reserve, where he was promoted to the rank of captain in June. His wife, Savannah, is a captain in the Air Force.

Moran honored to wear No. 21 for Roberto Clemente Day
Jovani Moran was born 25 years after Roberto Clemente's tragic death, but like any kid in Puerto Rico, he learned from childhood just how large the legacy of the Hall of Famer looms among the people of his island.

"All the Puerto Rican players, even Puerto Rican people that don't know about baseball, they know who Roberto Clemente is, because they know the great person he was in the baseball field and out of the baseball field," Moran said. "He died trying to help people, so that's the good guy he was."

As part of the leaguewide celebration of Clemente's life and generosity on Wednesday, Moran joined players across the country in donning Clemente's No. 21 for a game, in place of his typical No. 71. A native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Moran is the only Puerto Rican on the Twins' active roster.

"I feel happy to wear that number," Moran said. "It represents a lot to me, wearing the 21. He's an idol to me. He's a role model to follow."