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 showing 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 seemed to have won out over his desire to be around those teammates.
Instead of joining the Twins in the dugout, Maeda stayed in the bowels of the stadium for the first few innings and then left for the team hotel for the end of the game, marking his presence only with a handwritten sign taped to the dugout wall.
Twins to Maeda: Thanks for not showing up.
“I’m sorry for snapping the winning streak. I will not be in the dugout today. — 18 Kenta Maeda.”
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 ended a seven-game winning streak — their longest since 2011 — with a 6-1 loss, with all six Tampa Bay runs coming off Dylan Bundy in the first three innings.
“Halfway through, I realized, ‘Oh crap, we’re losing,'” Maeda said. “I was talking to Bundy earlier and he asked me, ‘How long did you stay in the dugout for?’ I told him I probably went in during the fourth inning. Because he gave up, what, six runs in the first three innings? It was all the innings I was there.”
So Maeda took one for showing the away from the dugout.
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.
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.”
“They all thanked me,” Maeda said. “Never heard anyone say thank you for not showing up to the game.”
(Maeda planned to leave the ballpark again for Sunday’s series finale.)
Though Maeda seemed unsure if he’d be able to return to the mound this season following his Tommy John surgery last September — he’s playing catch from 90 feet now and hopes to throw bullpen sessions by June — his manager seemed more optimistic about the Twins’ 2020 Opening Day starter.
“I’m anticipating seeing him pitch for us this year at some point,” Baldelli said. “But it’s all going to be how his body responds and how his rehab goes. Everything’s gone really well so far, which is great. And that’s all we can focus on at the moment.”
Maeda’s jinx status could complicate things at that point — but he’s already thinking ahead.
“Whatever it is, the team won last night,” Maeda said. “Even if I come back to the big leagues [this season], I’ll stay home for four days, come back the fifth day and then that might be the first time ever in MLB, show up only on game day.