FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kenta Maeda was encouraged Sunday after his four-inning outing.
No, not because he threw four scoreless innings or pounded the strike zone all day, throwing 36 of his 46 pitchers for strikes. Although Maeda was likely encouraged for those reasons, too, the Twins’ starter was pleased that he kept his opponent in the park for the first time this spring.
“It’s definitely the best (I’ve felt), and the fact that I did not give up a home run this time makes it even better,” Maeda said through an interpreter.
Maeda gave up a home run to Boston’s Andrew Benintendi, the first batter he saw this spring, in his first start. The second time out, Tampa Bay’s Joey Wendle tagged him for a longball. This time around, Maeda racked up six strikeouts in his efficient outing and gave up just two hits in what turned out to be a 7-6 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park.
Though the Twins haven’t said if his next outing will be in front of a crowd or on the backfields, Maeda’s next goal is to ramp up the innings and pitch count so he can finish his spring strong, as well as to polish his cutter, the one pitch he said wasn’t working too well on Sunday.
His performance drew rave reviews from his manager.
“He commanded all of his pitches exceptionally well today. His fastball command I think allowed everything else to play up really well,” Rocco Baldelli said. “… He’s probably turning it up a notch as well on top of everything else. But you really got to see a tremendous version of Kenta out there. It’s fun to watch. You watch how he attacks all hitters, but you watch how he attacks some of these good righthanded hitters, and he can really compete against those guys well.”
None of the players who the Twins brought to the Dominican Republic for Saturday’s game against the Detroit Tigers played on Sunday, though one, Caleb Hamilton, made the trip across Daniels Parkway.
After getting a day off Sunday, Baldelli said he expects many of them to be back in the lineup on Monday. That group included designated hitter Nelson Cruz, third baseman Miguel Sano and left fielder Eddie Rosario, among others.
While the Twins’ trip was brief — heading out on Friday and coming back Saturday night — they were appreciative of the opportunity to go.
“Anytime you can take part in a trip like that, I think, the baseball people involved, the players, the staff, everyone involved really enjoys it and ends up walking away thinking it was a great experience,” Baldelli said. “This was no exception.”
Baldelli said that Lewis Thorpe, who missed about 10 days for personal reasons, had resumed his throwing program. The Twins are planning on getting him back on the mound to face hitters in a simulated situation soon. … Second baseman Luis Arraez manned third base on Sunday against the Red Sox. While he likely won’t see much time at the hot corner this season, Baldelli said Arraez liked getting work around the infield. … Third baseman Josh Donaldson had two hits, including a double, against the Red Sox.