Right-hander Kenta Maeda will make his debut for the visiting Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon in the rubber game of their season-opening series with the Chicago White Sox.
The 32-year-old Maeda compiled a 47-35 record and 3.87 ERA in four seasons and 137 career appearances with the Los Angeles Dodgers, including a 10-8 mark and 4.04 ERA last season. The defending American League Central champion Twins, in a quest to bolster their starting rotation, obtained Maeda from the Dodgers in a February trade for hard-throwing pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol and outfielder Luke Raley.
Maeda made his main mark with the Dodgers in the bullpen in the playoffs. Only former teammate Kenley Jansen has made more postseason appearances over the last four seasons, and Washington closer Sean Doolittle is the only the pitcher with more than 10 postseason games to have a better ERA than Maeda’s bullpen ERA of 1.64. But Maeda made it clear in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week that he prefers a starting role.
“Being a starting pitcher is important to me,” Maeda said. “It would be best if I remain a starter. Obviously, I’m much happier when I’m not pitching out of the bullpen.”
Maeda (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will be making his second career start against the White Sox. He allowed one run on five hits over five innings in a July 19, 2017 road start that the Dodgers won, 9-1.
Chicago will counter with right-hander Reynaldo Lopez who went 10-15 with a 5.38 ERA last season. Lopez lost all three of his starts against Minnesota in 2019 and is 1-4 with a 5.71 ERA in seven career starts against the Twins, allowing eight home runs in 41 innings.
Minnesota, which won the series opener 10-5 on Friday behind a pair of home runs by Max Kepler, can only hope it gets the same kind of performance from Maeda in his debut as Chicago received Saturday afternoon from its prized new starting pitching addition, Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner with the Houston Astros, held the Twins to just an infield single over the first five innings in a 10-3 victory.
“That’s one of the best lineups that any of us will see this year,” Keuchel told the Chicago Sun Times. “They won the division for a reason last year, and we’re going to have to go through (Minnesota) to win this thing. I have a lot of respect for a ton of those guys over there.”
Minnesota set a major league record with 307 home runs last season, but Chicago has out-homered the Twins, 6-3, so far in the first two games including five in Saturday’s victory. Second baseman Leury Garcia led the way with two home runs and four RBIs, posting the 11th game in franchise history in which a player homered from both sides of the plate.
“It feels good,” Garcia told MLB.com. “I’m not trying to hit the home run. I know what I can do. But the wind helped a little bit. It’s the second game, so we’ll see.”
–Field Level Media