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On the day in July that Ryan Jeffers broke his right thumb, the Twins were six games above .500 and 3½ games in front of the AL Central, and the catcher vowed to return in time to help his team make a push into the playoffs.

So his intentions were good.

"Yeah, that's what's so unfortunate about the timing of my injury," Jeffers said Tuesday, his first day back on the Twins' active roster after more than 10 weeks away. "It's tough watching [the Twins fall out of the race] from the outside."

But the second-year player, his thumb not fortified with a couple of screws holding the bone in place, said he returns with good news about his future: He believes his swing is about to produce better results. Jeffers homered three times in his nine-game rehab stint with Class AAA St. Paul, including Monday night.

"I was actually really, really happy with how quickly it came back to me. After two months off, then getting back to feeling really good at the plate, hitting some homers, putting good barrels on the ball, it made me feel good about where I left off," Jeffers said. "When I got hurt, I was kind of settled into my swing. We had figured out what works for me, and when I started ramping back up, it was pretty clear: This is it. It feels really, really good."

So does the thumb, which he confirmed with four games behind the plate for the Saints. He didn't catch on Tuesday, but manager Rocco Baldelli said he will likely alternate days with Gary Sanchez over the season's final week.

"He's worked hard, he's healed up, and we've got him back to a good place physically," Baldelli said.

Buxton has surgery

Speaking of healing, center fielder Byron Buxton took the first step toward a fully healed right knee Tuesday, undergoing a "clean-up" surgical procedure.

"Everything went very well. Just the way we want it," Baldelli said of the procedure by Dr. Chris Camp, the Twins' orthopedic surgeon. "Just what you would want to hear. He's home and he's recovering."

But the Twins announced Tuesday that another player — backup catcher Sandy Leon, who has appeared in 25 games since being acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline — will require knee surgery.

Leon has been dealing with swelling after every game behind the plate, "and it got to a point last week where he wasn't going to be able to continue," Baldelli said.

Leon was placed on the injured list, allowing the Twins to activate Jeffers.

New faces

Most of the Twins' injured players have returned to the Twin Cities this week, a chance to reconnect with their teammates as they head into the offseason.

"Man, it's good to see some new faces," said righthander Chris Paddack, whose season ended with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow on May 8. "I've got some teammates that I've got to meet."

Paddack, acquired from San Diego on Opening Day, has spent the summer rehabbing in Texas, where he underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career in mid-May. His experience in rehabbing the previous one in 2016 has informed his program for this one, he said.

One thing he realizes: This one will take longer. His current target for returning to the major leagues is August.

"Everything's been pushed back a couple of months from my first one," the 23-year-old four-year veteran said. "I'm not going to put a number on it because we've got a long way to go, but my goal is August of next year, being able to come help this team win. That gives me five or six starts [in 2023] and playoffs. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Milestone on deck

The Twins will play their 1,000th regular-season game at Target Field on Wednesday, their second-to-last home game of the year. They are 502-497 in their downtown home, which opened in 2010, entering Tuesday, and 0-5 in postseason games.