The Twins have been plagued by injuries in recent weeks, but they’re on the verge of getting several key players back. Right-hander Kenta Maeda will be activated from the injured list to start tomorrow night’s game against the Mariners, manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Dan Hayes of the Athletic). He hasn’t pitched since May 22, when he went on the IL due to a groin strain.
It’s been a difficult season for Maeda, last year’s AL Cy Young award runner-up. The 33-year-old has managed just a 5.27 ERA over his first nine starts. Maeda’s strikeout rate has fallen from an elite 32.3% in 2020 to a below-average 20.5% this season. He’s also seen rather significant drops in his swinging strike and groundball rates, with opposing hitters making much harder contact off him.
Those struggles aside, the Twins will assuredly be happy to get their Opening Day starter back on the mound. Minnesota’s assortment of back-end starters (Matt Shoemaker, J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak, Bailey Ober) have struggled to varying degrees, perhaps the biggest reason for the team’s horrible 26-39 start. Making matters worse, righty Michael Pineda is day-to-day after leaving this afternoon’s start with right forearm tightness (notes Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press). Baldelli suggested Pineda could require an IL stint of his own (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com).
While the rotation has been a massive disappointment, the Twins also haven’t been helped by a series of injuries to some of their top position players. Byron Buxton was off to an MVP-level start, but he went down with a right hip strain on May 7. Buxton has been on the IL for the past five weeks, but Baldelli said the star center fielder will accompany the team to Seattle (via Park). The same is true of utilityman Luis Arráez, who’s been out since May 26 with a right shoulder strain.
Buxton and Arráez have been on rehab assignments at Triple-A St. Paul, but they’re evidently nearing a return to the majors. They should be followed in relatively short order by Max Kepler. The 28-year-old outfielder began a rehab assignment of his own today, serving as the designated hitter in St. Paul. Kepler put up a .212/.303/.424 line in 152 plate appearances this season before straining his left hamstring.