Fresh off a season in which he finished second in American League Cy Young voting, Kenta Maeda was the no-brainer Opening Day starter for the Twins this season, and he was expected to be a crucial cog for the Twins as they attempted to defend their back-to-back American League Central Division titles.
But this season didn’t go as planned for Maeda or the Twins in 2021. Maeda went under the scalpel on Wednesday morning, nearly 1,000 miles away from Target Field. Later Wednesday, Joe Ryan took the mound to make his major league debut.
Ryan, who threw five innings and gave up a three-run home run in the Twins’ 3-0 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday night at Target Field, is both a product of the Twins’ disappointing season and a beacon of hope for the future. The Twins never would have dealt for Ryan, 25, if not for a season that had gone sideways.
Acquired for designated hitter Nelson Cruz ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, Ryan is the Twins’ No. 5 prospect, per Baseball America, and their ranked their third-best pitching prospect. The Twins hope he will slot into a rotation that is now without its top starter, Maeda. Desperate for talented arms for the rest of this season and the future, the Twins are hoping Ryan is both.
The Twins got their first glimpse at the major league level on Wednesday, nearly a month after he was acquired. When they dealt for him, Ryan was in Tokyo, helping Team USA secure its silver medal at the Olympics.
His only blemish on Wednesday was a three-run third inning, in which he allowed a two-out, three-run home run to Cubs designated hitter Frank Schwindel.
Ryan, as advertised, peppered the Cubs with a steady stream of fastballs. Per Statcast, he threw his four-seamer 71 percent of the time. It averaged 90.8 miles per hour and got up to 93.7. Ryan threw 89 pitches in his debut, striking out five. He finished off his start by retiring the last seven batters he faced.
The Twins’ offense, meanwhile, was quieted by Cubs starter Justin Steele and reliever Adbert Alzolay. The Twins finished the day with two hits, both off the bat of Brent Rooker.