FORT MYERS, Fla. — The past five seasons of Matt Shoemaker’s baseball career have been plagued by injury, one after another, ranging from scary and life-threatening — Shoemaker took a batted ball off the head in 2016, requiring emergency brain surgery to stop the bleeding — to downright frustrating.

His 2017 and ’18 seasons with the Angels were derailed by two surgeries, first to release the radial nerve in his right forearm and then a nerve decompression and pronator teres tendon repair the next year.

During the next season, his first in Toronto, he tore his ACL during a rundown in April. Then last season, he was shelved for a month with a shoulder issue before returning in time for the playoffs.

But the Matt Shoemaker who arrived at Twins camp this weekend says he’s healthy and ready to pitch. Shoemaker, 34, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Twins earlier this month, will slot into their starting rotation, joining Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ.

“We were joking around the other day, saying, ‘Hey, we’ve had three of those, freak things, so we’re done.’ We’re good to go,” he said. “We’re healthy, ready to go, and hopefully they never happen again. It is what it is. You can’t control those. You just move forward and get better. Right now, I feel great, I feel strong, and just excited to get started.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Shoemaker was drawn to the Twins for a number of reasons. He wanted to play for a contender, but was also drawn to Minnesota after learning about the dynamic of the organization from some of the players on the team, as well as manager Rocco Baldelli, pitching coach Wes Johnson and general manager Thad Levine.

“Coming in and talking to Rocco and Wes and Thad before I signed, for a couple of days just trying to get an idea of the organization and what they’re all about, the fit just seems amazing, right? And that’s why I’m here and ready to go,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things from a lot of players about the organization as a whole, and obviously we’re talking about pitching, finds ways to get you better. And that’s huge because that’s what makes the team win.”

Shoemaker has only made 32 starts over the past four seasons, pitching just 166 innings. But when he’s been healthy, he’s been effective. He has a career 3.86 earned-run average, and the best season of his career actually came when he was a rookie, finishing as a runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting.

Shoemaker relies heavily on a splitter that he said he started throwing as a 14-year-old after having trouble figuring out how to throw a good changeup. As he developed, he started messing with the grip and release point, eventually getting it to where it is today.

“I really like his fastball. I like his split. I like his breaking stuff. This is a guy who’s had some bad luck,” Johnson said. “He’s had an ACL, some weird stuff. It’s not arm-related for the most part. I think this guy is primed and ready to have a good year. He’s got good stuff and he throws strikes.”

Baldelli had a chance to watch Shoemaker up close in an extended bullpen session Sunday — he estimated Shoemaker threw about 40 pitches — and liked what he saw from his new starter, too.

“He definitely can manipulate the ball. He definitely has the ability to spin the ball in different ways. Those are strengths,” Baldelli said. “When I say unique ways, he makes the ball move in ways that you’re not really used to seeing, and in a lot of ways, different is better a lot of the time.”

Now, the key is keeping him healthy and on the mound.

And right now, Shoemaker feels good about where he is, especially considering the strange nature of some of his past injuries.

“We’re always talking about our conditioning program, our strength program, our lifting program, arm program. I have a good program myself,” Shoemaker said. “It is what it is, but even talking to doctors who have dealt with me in the past when we’ve been getting these freak injuries right, I feel healthy now. Those are in the past. Just ready to go.”