September 27, 2022

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Maeda does Twins a favor … and stays away

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ST. PETERSBURG — It takes nearly two hours to drive from the Twins’ Minor League complex in Fort Myers, Fla., to Tropicana Field — and Kenta Maeda made that trek to join the Twins because he missed his teammates when he remained in Fort Myers after Spring Training to continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery.

But on Saturday, the veteran right-hander’s self-awareness seems to have won out over his desire to be around those teammates.

It seems that Maeda couldn’t help but notice that when he showed up in the dugout for Friday’s series opener against the Rays, the Twins immediately snapped a seven-game winning streak — their longest since 2011 — with a 6-1 loss.

So Maeda took one for the team on Saturday. Instead of joining his teammates in the dugout once again, he stayed in the bowels of the stadium, marking his presence only with a handwritten sign taped to the dugout wall.

“I’m sorry for snapping the winning streak. I will not be in the dugout today. — 18 Kenta Maeda.”

And, well, what do you know? The Twins crushed three homers as they got to star young left-hander Shane McClanahan in a 9-1 victory over Tampa Bay.

Coincidence? His manager thinks not.

“Regardless of whether he’s been away from us for a month now and can’t wait to get in the dugout, he’s all about winning,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And if that has to do with locking himself somewhere in the back of the clubhouse, then he’s willing to do it for a day. And he’s got really good feel. And he knew what might be coming if he just did his part. And that was his part today.”

Locking himself in the back of the clubhouse, though? Surely, they give Maeda permission to at least roam, right?

“I’m not sure where he was, I’ll be honest,” Baldelli said. “But wherever he was watching today’s game, we’re going to stick him there tomorrow.”

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