Rookie left-hander Sam Hentges will make his sixth career big league start on Saturday afternoon for the Cleveland Indians when they face the Minnesota Twins in the third game of their four-game weekend series in Minneapolis.
Indians manager Terry Francona can only hope that Hentges comes close to pitching as well as he did in his last start at Target Field.
That would have been on June 17, 2014, when the 6-foot-6 Hentges allowed five hits and struck out eight while tossing seven shutout innings and leading Mounds View High School from Arden Hills, Minn., to a 9-0 win over Eden Prairie in the state Class AAA championship game.
“My idol growing up was Joe Mauer,” said Hentges, who grew up about 20 minutes from Target Field.
Hentges said he actually appeared in a TV commercial with the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player and three-time AL batting champion.
“I was I think 8 years old maybe,” Hentges said. “I don’t even really remember what the commercial was about. I think I was just completely in awe the whole time. It was a cool experience.”
Hentges (1-1, 6.40 ERA) said he will have about 35 friends and family members in the stands to watch him make his first professional start against his hometown team. He faced the Twins in an April 28 relief appearance in Cleveland, allowing three runs on five hits, including a pair of home runs by Mitch Garver, over three innings during a 10-2 loss.
Luckily for Hentges, Garver will miss this one after undergoing groin surgery on June 1. He was hurt when hit by a foul tip off the bat of Trey Mancini in Baltimore.
“I’ve been trying to take it day by day since I’ve been called up,” Hentges said. “But now that it’s here, it’s very exciting for myself and my family and everyone involved. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues, and now here I am, facing the Twins, the team I rooted for growing up. It’s pretty surreal.”
Hentges will be opposed by right-hander Kenta Maeda (3-2, 4.85 ERA), the 2020 AL Cy Young Award runner-up who is coming off a 4-2 victory at Texas on Sunday. Maeda blanked the Rangers over the first five innings and allowed two runs — back-to-back home runs by Adolis Garcia and Joey Gallo — and five hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four.
Maeda is 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland but is winless in two starts against the Indians in Cleveland this season, getting the loss in a 7-4 setback on April 27 and a no-decision in a 5-3 defeat on May 22.
This will be Maeda’s third start since spending three weeks on the injured list due to a right adductor strain and right forearm soreness.
“The arm feels great,” Maeda said after his fastball averaged 91 mph on Sunday, up from the 89.6 mph average before his IL stint. “It’s nice to have the speed back, especially with the arm feeling strong. … Today, I was able to go full strength, so that really felt good.”
–Field Level Media