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MINNEAPOLIS — Kenta Maeda left the mound with Minnesota‘s athletic trainer for his second straight start, a concerning development in the early stages of his comeback from elbow surgery.

The Twins sent Maeda for an MRI exam after he complained of muscle discomfort on the top of his right arm during their 12-6 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.

The Twins say they don’t believe his latest trouble is related to the Tommy John elbow ligament replacement procedure he had on Sept. 1, 2021, that sidelined him for the entire 2022 season.

“It’s not on the side where you would normally be very concerned,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “One way or the other, he’s going to need some time off.”

Baldelli said the MRI was standard procedure given his post-surgery status. He said Maeda, who uncharacteristically declined to speak with reporters, “seemed in good spirits” when the manager checked on him in the clubhouse.

Maeda gave up a career-high 11 hits and 10 runs without recording an out in the fourth inning. He fell to 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA — with 23 hits and 16 runs allowed in 16 innings — after four starts.

Maeda felt some arm fatigue in his first turn on April 4. The Twins gave him nine days of rest between his second and third starts to help.

Then last week, he was struck on the left ankle by an 111 mph line drive. He described the experience through his interpreter afterward as excruciatingly painful, and Baldelli acknowledged he thought “it was very unlikely” that Maeda would stay on schedule in the rotation.

The 35-year-old outperformed the team’s expectation for recovery just to take the mound against the Yankees, but he never — figuratively, at least — found his footing.

The Yankees successfully bunted for singles twice, perhaps trying to test Maeda’s agility. He had a throwing error on the second one, starting a six-run fourth inning. The first one came in a five-run second when he dived to try to make a play and appeared to be grabbing at his back afterward.

There was no back problem, Baldelli said.

“We think he just had the wind knocked out of him on that. Did he feel anything on that play related to the eventual injury? I don’t know. I had heard nothing that connected the two,” Baldelli said. “So overall it was a difficult day, and then at the end of the outing is when he said he felt it.”

Fortunately for the Twins, they have their best starting pitching depth in years. Bailey Ober, who was recently sent to Triple-A after one stellar start for the Twins, would be Maeda’s natural replacement.

“It feels like not a lot of things have gone his way so far,” Baldelli said. “But now that we’re at this point, this is definitely going to be some type of reset for him so he can get his arm feeling better first and foremost.”

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Kenta Maeda dealing with arm muscle discomfort, to get MRI