Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, manager Rocco Baldelli announced. The surgery ends Maeda's season, and given the typical 14-16 month rehab timetable for elbow reconstruction, he is likely to miss 2022 as well. Baldelli said Maeda had an internal brace installed that could speed up the recovery time, however.
"Our goal right now is to get Kenta's rehab process going, make sure he's comfortable," Baldelli told reporters, including Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. "You really do have to take these things step by step. We'll know more as we get into the first, second, third month of this rehab process. Then, I think we'll begin to have at least more of a feel as far as how things are going."
The 33-year-old Maeda exited his Aug. 21 start after 4 1/3 innings with forearm tightness -- forearm tightness is are a common precursor to Tommy John surgery -- and he admitted his elbow had been bothering him since April.
"The elbow condition wasn't always there throughout the season," Maeda told Miller following that Aug. 21 start. "It's been a tough grind, and if you look at the result, that kind of explains what it was like inside my elbow. Tough season throughout. And then when I was informed of the possibility of surgery to fix this issue, I was really surprised and a little sad to hear it, to be honest."
Maeda joined Minnesota in what was essentially a three-team trade sending Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last year. He finished second in the AL Cy Young voting last season, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings during the 60-game season. This year Maeda threw 106 1/3 innings with a 4.66 ERA around an adductor injury.
Minnesota traded José Berríos to the Blue Jays at the deadline and right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. Here are the healthy starting pitchers with MLB experience the Twins currently have signed or under team control next year:
- LHP Andrew Albers
- LHP Charlie Barnes
- RHP Randy Dobnak
- RHP John Gant
- RHP Griffin Jax
- RHP Bailey Ober
- RHP Joe Ryan (part of Nelson Cruz trade, making MLB debut Wednesday)
- LHP Lewis Thorpe (currently out with shoulder discomfort)
Albers and Gant are non-tender candidates and may not be around in 2022. Ryan has nice potential, and Jax and Ober have impressed the last few weeks, otherwise that's not a rotation that projects to contend for a division title. The Twins are all but certain to pursue pitching via trades and free agency this winter, and that was true even before Maeda got hurt.
The 33-year-old Maeda pitched for the Hiroshima Carp from 2008-15 before signing an eight-year contract with the Dodgers in Jauary 2016. Because of an existing physical issue, reportedly with his elbow, the contract included only $25 million in guaranteed money with another $65 million available in bonuses tied to starts and innings pitched.