FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kenta Maeda might have preferred a couple of 1-2-3 innings his first time out this spring. Instead, his defense put him in a position where the Twins starter had to pitch himself out of a jam.
Unsurprisingly, he did.
Maeda inducing a groundout to escape unscathed after the defense behind him had committed a pair of errors and he had hit a batter, the combination of which loaded the bases.
“He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s shown us a little bit of everything,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “…He pitched himself into a little traffic and then pitched himself out. Overall, I thought it was the kind of work he needed.”
Maeda seemed pleased with his first outing of the spring, striking out three batters in his two-inning, 33-pitch effort. Both innings were scoreless — the second one perfect. The Twins went on to lose the game 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays at Hammond Stadium.
Maeda, who has been tinkering with pitches to add to his repertoire, threw a few curveballs in his two innings, and while he said he doesn’t expect it to be a put-away pitch for him, he wants it to be a pitch he can control to get strikes consistently.
“(He) threw even some of the slower curveballs. I think he mixed in some of the cutter-type pitches that he spent a little time on,” Baldelli said. “I think he’s looking to do just a few extra things like we’ve talked about already this spring and now he’s bringing them into the game. But overall I think it was a very good outing.”
Kyle Garlick’s quest to prove to the Twins that he deserves a spot on the roster has begun with a quick start to spring training, hitting two home runs in his first three games.
The Twins claimed the 29-year-old outfielder off waivers from the Braves on Jan. 11. Garlick had been claimed by the Braves less than a month earlier after being designated for assignment by the Phillies on Jan. 18.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride. I just try not to think about it too much. Getting DFA’d can be a little discouraging but I just try to stay positive and know that things are going to work out,” Garlick said. “I kept working hard, training, doing everything in the offseason just thinking that things would work out and I would be picked up and everything.”
He was, and Garlick said he’s happy to be in the position he’s in now, even if he’s in an uphill battle with more than a few other outfield candidates. After all, uphill battles aren’t anything new for Garlick, a 28th-round draft pick in 2015 who has played 42 games in the big leagues since reaching the top level in 2019.
“I think the biggest thing with my big-league experience is just not having consistent playing time, honestly,” he said. “A lot of pinch hits, a lot of spot starts, a lot of up and down. I’m just working for trying to get that opportunity to be an everyday starter, and I know it’s not going to be easy, especially with this team with the depth that they have. But that’s something, that’s a goal of mine.”
Slow with Thielbar
Relief pitcher Caleb Thielbar has been sidelined with what Baldelli called a “strain” in his lower back, and the Twins are being careful to not rush him back. Thielbar had been throwing at the beginning of camp before suffering the strain and has not appeared in a game.
Baldelli does not expect the absence to be long term, instead saying he thinks it would be more “a matter of days or maybe potentially weeks.”
“We want him to be able to throw the ball to the best of his ability when he gets out there and not be fighting this for an extended period of time, so whenever that is, we’re going to be comfortable with that timeline,” Baldelli said.
Baldelli said third baseman Josh Donaldson would likely make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday. He said a handful of players, Donaldson and Nelson Cruz included, are getting extra at-bats on the back fields and during some live BP. … Matt Shoemaker and Michael Pineda will make their spring pitching debuts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. … Alex Kirilloff finished 2-for-4 in Thursday’s game.