Maeda baffles Tsutsugo but takes loss as Jays rip Twins

Miami (AFP) –


Minnesota pitcher Kenta Maeda silenced Major League Baseball rookie outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of Tampa Bay in a Sunday matchup of Japanese standouts but took the loss in a pre-season game.

Tsutsugo, pleased to see a familiar face as he learns new pitchers in his transition season from Japan to North America, went 0-for-2 with two flyouts off right-hander Maeda in the Rays' 8-2 victory over Minnesota at Port Charlotte, Florida.

"I was very happy," Tsutsugo said through a translator in a posting on the MLB website. "I enjoyed the moment."

Maeda surrendered three runs, only one of them earned, on two hits -- one of them a home run -- with two walks and three strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings to take the loss, his first decision in the exhibition season.

It was their first meeting in a game outside of the Japan League, where both had solid careers.

Tsutsugo, who was 0-for-3 overall with a strikeout on Sunday, played from 2010 through 2019 with the Yokohama BayStars. Maeda was a star for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 2008 through 2015 before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded him to the Twins last month.

Tsutsugo, a left-handed batter, had gone 9-for-48 (.188) off Maeda with two homers and two doubles before Sunday.

The compatriots met before the game, Maeda joking he would make his first pitch to him a changeup. But when Tsutsugo came to the plate second in the Rays lineup, the first pitch he saw was a fastball for a called strike.

"I was waiting for the changeup," Tsutsugo said with a smile. "So I didn't swing at the fastball."

Maeda said Tsutsugo's biggest challenges in adjusting to North America will be cultural differences, the MLB schedule and the language barrier.

But Maeda said Tsutsugo can find success once he adjusts to North America.

"We're still early in spring, so he's at the point of making adjustments," Maeda said through a translator.

"But from what I can see, he's certainly a power hitter and he has a lot of power in him."