Twins’ Ryan Jeffers will have procedure to set bone fracture

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Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers has a small fracture in his right thumb and will have a procedure to repair to set the injury sometime next week, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Saturday.

Falvey said it will take six to eight weeks for the bone to heal, after which he will go out on a rehab assignment.

“We do expect Ryan to be back (this season),” Falvey said.

Jeffers was injured when he was hit in the right hand by a bouncing pitch during a pregame bullpen session on July 2 and left that game against the Baltimore Orioles after the third inning. An initial X-ray of the thumb revealed no structural damage and Jeffers played through the soreness until he was jammed by a pitch this week, Falvey said.

A bone scan taken on Friday revealed the small fracture.

“He asked the question, ‘Can I play through this?,’ ” Falvey said. “And (the doctors) said the best thing you can do, longterm, would be to make sure this heals appropriately and correctly, which is why they need to do the procedure and put it in some kind of brace or mechanism.”

Jeffers, who had been catching in a tandem with veteran Gary Sanchez, was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday and the Twins called up Caleb Hamilton from Class AAA St. Paul to take his spot on the active roster.

Selected by the Twins in the 23rd round of the 2016 first-year player draft, Hamilton, 27, was promoted to St. Paul this season and has hit .252 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 49 games. He played 23 games behind the plate, 11 at third base and four at first for the Saints.

This is Hamilton’s first major league callup.

“Honestly, wherever the team needs me, I’m happy to go out there,” Hamilton said Friday. “I’ve played all nine (positions). It’s just one of those things, if I need to go third or first — or literally anywhere — I’m really happy to do it.”

Falvey said the Twins haven’t gone through all the scenarios Jeffers’ absence will cause but added the team hopes to fill the void with internal options. “For sure,” he said. “Caleb can step in.”

LITTLE RELIEF

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and his pitching group made the decision on Friday to use the bullpen early, pulling starter Devin Smeltzer after three innings with the game tied, 2-2.

“That was something that I was thinking about and our pitching group was thinking about for a while,” said Baldelli, explaining that the White Sox hit well against lefties.

Smeltzer, who said he was “blindsided” by the hook, battled but retired the last two batters he faced on flyouts before Emilio Pagan gave up the go-ahead run on a two-out home run to Tim Anderson in the third, and Griffin Jax gave up a three-run shot to Adam Engel in the seventh of a 6-2 loss.

It was the 19th loss tagged on a Twins reliever, sixth-highest in the majors. Heading into Saturday’s game against the White Sox, Minnesota relievers had thrown 371⅓ innings, third-highest in the majors.

“We need our bullpen to go out there and pitch well and I believe there’s a lot of guys out there that haven’t pitched as good as they can this year,” Baldelli said. “And there’s more in there. I absolutely believe that.”

“We need to be able to rely on our bullpen if we’re going to go out there and play the kind of baseball that we need to play,” the manager added. “So, we’re going to keep challenging guys and putting them in different spots where we believe they should be able to go out there and do a good job. And we’re not going to hesitate to do that.”

RETIREMENT PARTY

Longtime Twins pitcher Jim Kaat had his No. 36 retired during a pregame ceremony on Saturday. He pitched at least two seasons for three other franchises but said he feels most like a Twin.

Kaat, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with former teammate Tony Oliva on July 24, recalled the negotiations with former owner Calvin Griffith that led to him being waived and picked up by the White Sox during the 1973 season. He was 11-12 with a 4.78 earned-run average at the time.

“He said, ‘Can you go out on Nicollet Avenue and find another job that will pay you 18 thousand dollars?’ ” Kaat said while signing baseballs near the press box. “I said, ‘Can you go out to Nicollet Avenue and find another left-hander that can win you 18 games?’

“It was that kind of thing.”

Kaat joins Oliva (6), Harmon Killebrew (3), Rod Carew (29), Kent Hrbek (14), Kirby Puckett (34), Bert Blyleven (28), Tom Kelly (10) and Joe Mauer (7) as former Twins with their numbers retired.

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