Michael Pineda wasn’t sure he where he would end up when he hit free agency at the beginning of this offseason. But he was sure of one thing: He knew where he wanted to end up.
And when he had the opportunity, he jumped on it.
The starting pitcher, who originally signed a two-year deal with the Twins before the 2018 season, signed another two-year contract to stay with the Twins.
“We had to wait and do the process, so nobody knows” what might happen, Pineda said. “My agent and Minnesota were talking, and he said, ‘Hey, you have an offer from Minnesota,’ so thank God because I wanted to come back. I’m excited (to be) here.”
Now, Pineda has another waiting process. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound right-hander will not be able to break camp with the team as he serves out the remainder of his suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic last season. That will be 39 games and will keep him out until May. While he said his schedule is “pretty normal,” the Twins will ramp him up a little slower than normal this spring because he doesn’t need to be ready by the end of March like the rest of his teammates.
“Big Mike’s going to take part in a lot of our day-to-day early in the day and he’s going to ramp up. We have his rehab progression. Essentially, he gets to go on a rehab assignment fairly early in the season and they have 30 days,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We have it all mapped out. It doesn’t mean it’s going to play out exactly as planned. We know things can change, but I think we have a pretty good plan for Mike.”
Pineda threw on Friday, Feb. 14, and before he threw, he said normally he would be throwing 30 pitches but was aiming for 20 instead.
“Nothing crazy,” he said. “It’s a slow process.”
While Pineda won’t be allowed to pitch in any spring training game where fans pay money to attend, the Twins will have him out throwing on the backfields in minor-league games, then he will transition into a rehab assignment when the season gets underway.
“I think he’s feeling good. I think he’s glad to be out here with his teammates and running around,” Baldelli said. “The plan is for when he comes off of the suspension that he comes right in and he’s ready to pitch.”
Maeda talks Astros
New Twins pitcher Kenta Maeda admitted to being a bit frustrated after hearing about how the Astros had been using electronics to steal signs the year they beat the Dodgers, Maeda’s former team, in the 2017 World Series.
But he’s not sure how much of an impact that scheme had on him. Maeda pitched in four games out of the bullpen spanning 5 2/3 innings in that World Series and gave up just one run — a home run to Jose Altuve in Game 5.
“That’s the only homer that I gave up and I’m not even sure 100 percent if he knew the signs, if he knew my pitch, but I’m not really frustrated. Altuve himself is a good hitter,” Maeda said. “If I knew for sure Altuve knew my pitch, then I would have been bothered, frustrated. But then again, I don’t know for sure, so I can’t really say.”
In retrospect, though, he said it helps explain Yu Darvish’s performances. Darvish gave up four runs in Game 3 and five runs in Game 7 after giving up just a run apiece in two playoff games earlier in the postseason.
Along with Maeda, the Twins’ roster includes Rich Hill, another pitcher from that Dodgers team, as well as Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler Clippard, both of whom played for the 2017 Astros.
“Being a Dodger at that time, it’s a little frustrating because the Dodgers had a chance to win the whole thing. But then again, it’s in the past and right now what I can do is contribute to the Twins winning the World Series,” Maeda said.
On Friday, Maeda threw his first bullpen session as a member of the Twins to his new catcher Mitch Garver with pitching coach Wes Johnson looking on. Garver, who had only seen him pitch on TV, liked what he saw first hand.
“Fastball looked good. It was straight, hard,” Garver said. “His change-up is more of a split, kind of a split-change. It had good depth to it. The curveball is more of a 12-6, also has good depth, and the slider was hard. It came out of his hand like a fastball.”