Before this season, the longest Kenta Maeda had been away from baseball in his career was 10 days.
Now after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Twins' starting pitcher is facing nine months to a year away from the sport.
"This whole Tommy John rehab is really a long process, and it's only been two weeks since I had my surgery [Sept. 1]," Maeda said in Japanese through an interpreter. "So far, I'm really optimistic about where I'm at, and I'm really looking forward to the next steps in the rehab process, and I want to be able to go back and throw as soon as possible."
But Maeda added he knows with such a lengthy road ahead of him, there's bound to be frustrating times when he wants to play but can only watch. But the 33-year-old knows the best way for him to recover is to not rush it.
Maeda has been in Dallas since Aug. 25, having surgery there and working at a local rehab facility since.He plans to stay there through October. The Twins hope he can return to the mound late in the 2022 season.
"If I can pitch in 2022, that'd be great. But is that a must? I don't know. I don't think so," Maeda said. "I think what's important here is to fully recover, and if I'm in a condition to be able to pitch, I'll pitch."
When Maeda first came to MLB from Japan in 2016, he already had minor damage to his ulnar collateral ligament. His orthopedic surgeon, Rangers team physician Keith Meister, performed a relatively new aspect to the surgery, though, that is supposed to trim the recovery time down from at least a year. Meister implants an internal brace around the ligament to aid in its healing.
Maeda has connected with Toronto pitcher Kirby Yates, who had the same surgery a couple months earlier and is rehabbing in the same facility. Maeda said Yates has been really positive about his experience, which is "encouraging."
For his own rehab, it's mostly been simple exercises and some cardio for now. Besides that, he can't do much more than binge-watch Netflix.
"It's really difficult when you only have one arm to do everything in your daily life," Maeda said.
Even though he's several states away and many months removed from rejoining his team, Maeda said he still makes a point to check in on the Twins and how they're doing.
"I hear some guys when they're away from the team for so long, they just want to get away from baseball and not watch baseball at all, but I don't think that way," he said. "I try to stay involved in baseball as much as possible and that's what motivates me to go through this long rehab process."
That, and he knows he's not ready to call time on his career yet.
"I have several years left in my tank in terms of pitching," Maeda said. "So I want to rehab correctly and build up strength so when I come back, I'll be pitching better than before for the next couple years."
- Rookie pitcher Joe Ryan is "doing well," per manager Rocco Baldelli, after taking a line drive off his right wrist, his pitching arm, Tuesday. "We'll see if we think we need to amend his schedule in any way," Baldelli said. "It looks like the worst of it, though, was avoided. And it seems like whatever direction we're going in now seems like a much better direction than what it originally looked like."
- Catcher Mitch Garver is taking part in baseball activities and is eyeing a rehab stint in preparation for coming off the injured list after his lower-back strain. Baldelli said a potential option is having him play in the Saints' current series in Indianapolis, with games there Thursday through Sunday.