CINCINNATI – Kenta Maeda insists he's fine pitching in whatever role the Twins need him in the postseason, a decision that is out of his control.
The way Maeda is pitching lately, it might be difficult to take him out of the rotation.
Maeda, who threw a season-high 105 pitches last week, surrendered only one hit and one walk across five scoreless innings Tuesday night, shutting down a Cincinnati Reds lineup that is fighting for a spot in the National League wild-card race.
"During the regular season, I prefer to be a starter, but when it comes to postseason, everything changes," Maeda said through interpreter Dai Sekizaki. "We all shift gears toward winning each game, so each role that I'm in, I just go out and give it my all."
Maeda, who owns a 2.82 ERA through four September starts, struck out eight for the second consecutive start. He totaled five strikeouts with his slider and three with his splitter. He didn't think he had much life on his fastball, but he overpowered hitters with his off-speed pitches.
One of the reasons the Twins are weighing Maeda in the postseason bullpen is his dominance when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. From 2017 to 2019, he allowed four runs in 22 innings (1.64 ERA) as a reliever. He pitched five scoreless innings in a wild-card series for the Twins in 2020.
"If I had a say, I'd probably want to do a starter role," Maeda said. "Then again, for the reasons I said earlier, wherever the team puts me."
Against the Reds, Maeda retired his first 11 batters with only three balls leaving the infield.
"The first time they got the hit, I was worried," Twins acting manager Jayce Tingler said. "He was throwing so well, and he hadn't thrown out of the stretch or had somebody on. But he had it working all night."
Not only was it a successful start, but it was lucrative. Maeda, who will be a free agent after the season, earned an additional $1.25 million through contract incentives in Tuesday's start for starting 20 games this season and surpassing 100 innings pitched.