FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kenta Maeda has never stepped foot in Minnesota, but he has learned one important thing about his new home already.
“All I know is that it’s cold,” he said Thursday, Feb. 13.
Maeda, who the Twins acquired from the Dodgers officially earlier this week, will have plenty of time to learn about his new team and teammates after arriving for spring training Wednesday and participating in his first day of camp Thursday.
It’s been a hectic February for Maeda, who was planning on spending the next month and a half in Arizona but instead had to pack up and head to Florida. For much of that time, Maeda didn’t know where he would be reporting.
“I was in a limbo state wondering whether I’m going to play for one team or for another,” he said through an interpreter. “I was just kind of in that state of mind trying to figure out what team I was going to play for.”
The Twins, as it turns out.
The Twins were persistent in their pursuit of the 31-year-old pitcher from Japan, turning their attention to a two-team trade with the Dodgers after the proposed three-team trade with the Red Sox was scuttled when Boston expressed concerns over prospect Brusdar Graterol’s medical reports. That held up the process, and it was nearly a week before the trade for Maeda — in a different format — was official.
“It was my agents updating me on a day-to-day basis on what was going on,” Maeda said. “They told me, ‘In the media, it’s being said I was traded, but we’re not actually 100% sure.’”
With that now behind him, Maeda is ready to meet his new teammates and explore his new home. He expressed appreciation to catcher Mitch Garver for giving him jersey No. 18, which he wore in Los Angeles, and said he planned on doing some research on Japanese restaurants in the Twin Cities and brushing up on his English.
“Having four years in the big leagues, I know what the team is and how great my teammates are, but I’ve never been to the city,” he said. “In that sense, that’s something to discover and go out and adventure.”
Maeda said he was welcomed in by both the front office and manager Rocco Baldelli, who expressed a lot of excitement about the new weapon added to his rotation. Maeda got right to work on Thursday, and the plan is for him to throw on Friday, Baldelli said.
“Adding Maeda to our group is huge. It’s something we’re very excited about, to have a guy that has this type of ability, that has this type of experience,” Baldelli said. “To be able to plug him in to a situation where he seems to be excited about what’s going on and our plans for him and the opportunity. We’re extremely happy to have him.”
Though Maeda was used both in relief and in the rotation while with the Dodgers, the Twins plan to have him be a big part of their rotation. Maeda went 10-8 with a 4.04 earned-run average last season in 37 games — 26 starts — with the Dodgers. He has a 3.87 ERA in his four seasons in the majors, all with Los Angeles. He pitched the first eight seasons of his career in Japan.
“We and he are very excited. I think he is looking at this as an opportunity. I think he welcomed the opportunity. We’re looking at it the same way,” Baldelli said. ” … This isn’t where we are bringing someone in and the idea is to make a ton of adjustments. I think he’s a very open-minded guy, but we are going to let him come in and perform for us. We are going to rely a lot on him.”