Tigers letting Kenta Maeda maintain Japanese ace jersey number is good vibes for 2024

Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenta Maeda talks to bench coach George Lombard during spring training at
Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenta Maeda talks to bench coach George Lombard during spring training at / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Before coming over to MLB, one of the Detroit Tigers' newest aces spent eight years as a lights-out starter for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's NPB. Kenta Maeda is, by far, not only one of the oldest pitchers in the Tigers' organization but one of the oldest players altogether. His two-year, $24 million deal secured a pitcher who placed second in Cy Young voting in 2020 with his 0.750 WHIP on the year, but also one who will be able to guide the Tigers' very young rotation as they develop.

Maeda has always worn No. 18 during his seven years in MLB, and the number takes on a new life when taking into account its meaning in NPB. In Japan, No. 18 is typically reserved for a team's ace; Maeda, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Masahiro Tanaka, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto all wore it in Japan, and Yamamoto will don it for the Dodgers throughout his 12-year tenure in LA.

Maeda went as far as locking his jersey number down in his Tigers' contract, and if No. 18 really is lucky, then it could spell some good things for the Tigers down the line.

Tigers letting Kenta Maeda maintain Japanese ace jersey number is good vibes for 2024

Maeda has been bogged down by injuries for the last three years; he didn't pitch in 2022 after he underwent Tommy John in 2021 and he missed a few months in 2023 with a tricep strain. In his introductory press conference with the team, he said he wasn't worried about his arm, and he did manage to find some more velocity in his fastball throughout the season after he returned to the Twins in late June.

Despite the injuries, Maeda was able to give the Twins over 100 innings in 2021 and 2023, and hopefully he'll be able to find a few more in him for the Tigers over these next two years. His second-place Cy Young year isn't too far behind him in the rearview mirror, and both he and the Tigers clearly believe he still has more in him to give the team in his later years. No. 18, you'd better come through for us.

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