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OAKLAND, CALIF. — Jharel Cotton flew home to the Twin Cities on Tuesday, five days earlier than planned. He hopes "home" continues to be an apt description.

That's not up to him, not after the Twins yanked his roster spot in order to activate Dylan Bundy from the COVID list. In baseball's formal language, Cotton has been designated for assignment — for the second time this season — and placed on waivers, allowing any of the other 29 teams to claim him and put him on their own major league roster.

It wouldn't be a bad outcome, because another team might ask him to pitch more often than the Twins; the righthander has thrown only 11 total innings, between the majors and minors, in the season's first five and a half weeks, and has allowed only one earned run at each level.

"He's throwing the ball well at this point," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Cotton, who rejoined the Twins only one week earlier. "Ultimately, these decisions, these situations are challenging, because he's throwing the ball good."

But Cotton is a member of a potentially new class of ballplayer — the DFA Detachment, in a sense. With usage of relief pitchers at record levels and roster spots capped, essentially, at 40, teams have had to find creative ways to keep additional arms. In Cotton, thanks in part to some contractual foresight and their association with the St. Paul Saints, they have created practically an extra roster spot.

In other words, they keep cutting him — but keep keeping him, too.

The process began last November, shortly after the Twins claimed the 30-year-old righthander off waivers themselves, plucking him from the Rangers' roster. But almost immediately, they needed that roster spot to protect their best prospects from the Rule 5 draft. So the Twins offered Cotton a minor-league contract, guaranteeing him $700,000, a raise from the MLB minimum of, at the time, $560,500, and a commitment to pay him that salary even if he was in Class AAA.

As it turned out, Cotton has been cut three times already this year, once in spring training (though he was technically on the minor-league roster), and now twice during the regular season when the Twins' ever-revolving roster got too crowded.

Cotton accepted the deal, in part because of the location of that Class AAA team. No matter at what level he plays, his wife Emma and 2-year-old daughter Zola can live in the Twin Cities, an advantage most MLB teams can't offer.

"I like being here. I've always wanted to play in the Midwest, and I live in Detroit, so this is close. This is like home for me, basically," said Cotton, who grew up in North Carolina and has played for Oakland, Texas and Minnesota in the majors — and 12 different minor league teams, from Chattanooga to Rancho Cucamonga. "So I'm happy where I'm at."

The Twins are happy they can offer that advantage to potential players.

"In this game, there's so much uncertainty and travel and personal decisions. It happens all the time [and] they matter a lot," Baldelli said. "I would be thinking about those exact things. The less you have to pack up your family and move around in this game, the better."

Which is why, though he has the right to declare free agency and walk away, Cotton sounds like he intends to accept an invitation to pitch for the Saints, should he clear waivers. And potentially get DFA'd again.

"I mean, it's not fun. But I can't control it. For me, it's like, I come up here, I do what I got to do, [then] I go down, I do what I got to do, I come back, I do what I got to do," Cotton said, one day before being DFA'd.

There's one other benefit, too.

"This is a first-place team," he pointed out. "I've never been on a first-place team before."

Perhaps he will again. Perhaps sometime soon.

Staff writer Megan Ryan contributed to this report.