Ex pitcher Maeda not ready to call Twins rivals

LAKELAND, FLA. - Kenta Maeda pitched four scoreless innings against his former team Tuesday with seven strikeouts, but there was one part of his impressive outing he hopes he doesn't have to repeat during the regular season.

Maeda, if it was up to him, prefers not to pitch against the Twins.

"Being on the other side now, we're division rivals, but I don't really want to consider them rivals because I'm such good friends with everyone," Maeda said through interpreter Dai Sekizaki. "In an ideal situation, I wouldn't want to face the Twins. But if it comes, I'll just try to make the most out of it and enjoy the game."

Tuesday was Maeda's first reunion with some Twins players and staff since he signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Detroit Tigers in November. He chatted with fellow starter Joe Ryan after they both exited the game, and he spoke with manager Rocco Baldelli outside of the visiting clubhouse following the final out.

Maeda still chats regularly with several of his former teammates, including Ryan, Max Kepler and Edouard Julien via Instagram. When Kepler visited Tokyo during the off-season, Maeda met him for coffee.

Did Maeda think there was a chance he would return to the Twins after he reached free agency?

"I don't think there was any official offer put on the table from Minnesota, at least as far as I know," Maeda said. "So, I wouldn't really know. It's hard for me to say."

Maeda permitted one hit and two walks Tuesday, and Twins hitters whiffed on eight of their 12 swings against his splitter.

"He pitched very much like we've seen for the past few seasons," Baldelli said. "Nothing that we saw out there was out of the norm for him."

Thielbar ready for games

Caleb Thielbar, who has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring while he recovers from a strained left hamstring, threw roughly two dozen pitches in a live bullpen session against some of the Twins' best hitters Tuesday, and pronounced himself "ready right now."

"Honestly, I felt pretty locked in, so once I get in a game, that's really the last step," the veteran left-hander said after facing Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Carlos Santana and Julien at Hammond Stadium. "I'm right there, velo-wise," with his fastball hitting 92 mph. "Stuff-wise, everything is good. I'm in a good spot."


* The Twins announced four position players were cut from major league camp Tuesday: catcher Jair Camargo, first baseman Yunior Severino, outfielder Emmanuel Rodriguez and utility man Austin Martin. Camargo, Severino and Martin were optioned to Class AAA and Rodriguez was optioned to AA. There are 44 players left in camp.

* Minnesota was shut out for the second straight game and one-hit in their 1-0 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium. Ryan allowed three hits and one run in four innings, and he struck out six of his final eight batters. "Both teams pitched about as good as you can pitch as a unit," Baldelli said. "Probably the fastest game I've ever been a part of at the major league level."

* Tigers pitching prospect Jackson Jobe topped out at 101.8 mph in his lone inning against the Twins on Tuesday. Twins batters whiffed on five of their seven swings against the 21-year-old righty, who is ranked No. 20 on Baseball America's top prospects list.