Maeda (Tommy John) not likely to pitch this season
Club to scale down buildup plan, though not viewed as a setback
MINNEAPOLIS -- Throughout Kenta Maeda's recovery from Tommy John surgery, the Twins hoped that the veteran right-hander, their Opening Day starter last season, could still factor into this season's team as a bullpen option in September.
That now seems unlikely, as Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey announced on Monday that the club will be less aggressive with Maeda's buildup back to the field, likely ruling out a possible return during the regular season.
"I think just based on his progression, how important he is for next year [and] making sure we’re in a good place, we just collectively didn’t feel like it’s time to say, ‘Go,’ and push and push to come back to games," Falvey said.
This isn't any indication of a setback in Maeda's recovery, as the 34-year-old continues to throw bullpen sessions at the club's Minor League complex in Fort Myers, Fla., with his fastball measuring in the upper 80s and low 90s. He will next progress to facing live hitters.
The initial hope, Falvey said, had been a mid-September target for Maeda's return to the Majors. But after a check-in with Dr. Keith Meister, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on Maeda on Sept. 1, 2021, Maeda and the Twins opted not to ramp up the aggression in his rehab plan, though he will continue the progression as though he were expecting to return and pitch.
Because of that, Falvey wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility that Maeda might return to the Twins at some point if the club is still playing "deep into the playoffs." Were that to happen, though, there would likely be some question as to whether the Twins would be comfortable handing a postseason roster spot to a player who hadn't pitched in 13 months.
"If, by chance, that changes and we’re pitching in the World Series, maybe there’s a different conversation to be had because he’s had a different last month," Falvey said. "But it won’t be mid-September."
Even without Maeda, the Twins still expect to have plenty of reinforcements in the fold in September, with right-hander Josh Winder (shoulder), right-hander Bailey Ober (groin), right-hander Randy Dobnak (finger), outfielder Trevor Larnach (core) and catcher Ryan Jeffers (thumb) all candidates to return from lengthy absences -- and that's not to mention the anticipated returns of Tyler Mahle and Cole Sands following their recent injuries.
With Winder, Ober and Dobnak all expected to provide potential bullpen help, the Twins can turn their focus instead to having Maeda fully ready for 2023, where he will be expected to help anchor the top of a rotation that should be a strength of the club, alongside the likes of Sonny Gray, Mahle, Ober, Joe Ryan, Winder and, eventually, Chris Paddack.