Sonny Gray had to work with a different catcher behind the plate Saturday for the first time with the Twins. Though the replacement wasn't too unfamiliar.
Ryan Jeffers was a late scratch from the lineup, still dealing with a right thumb contusion he picked up in pregame warmups Friday when a pitch hit him. He left that game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Gary Sanchez was his substitute both then and Saturday.
While the Twins have said they don't deliberately pair up certain pitchers with certain catchers, since that approach won't work through all 162 games, Jeffers has caught Gray exclusively this season for 10 games, until Saturday.
Sanchez and Gray first worked together with the Yankees for 1 ½ seasons in 2017 and '18. But the pairing didn't yield great ERAs, so Gray mostly pitched to Austin Romine, especially in 2018. Before the game Saturday, Jeffers, catching coach Hank Conger and Sanchez met so Jeffers could share what he's learned about Gray so far. Jeffers said he planned to do the same in the dugout between innings.
Gray had one of his tougher outings, giving up three runs on six hits, including a homer, and three walks.
"Gary did a great job," Gray said. "We worked through some things. We were on the same page a lot. I think for me, it was just more or less I wasn't getting my fastball into the places consistently where I wanted to."
As for Jeffers, he said he was unable to throw for most of Friday's game, with the main issue being swelling. He said there was nothing "serious" about the injury, but the Twins might have to make a move if Jeffers still has trouble Sunday. Sanchez and Jeffers are the only catchers on the active roster. The backup option would likely be utility player Nick Gordon.
The Saintscalled up catcher Frank Nigro from Class A Cedar Rapids on Saturday, which could pave the way for the Twins to bring up Jose Godoy, a catcher on the Saints roster, if necessary.
Dobnak's last resort
For at least a few days, Randy Dobnak could feel like he was back with the Twins.
The pitcher came up to the Twin Cities from Fort Myers, where he has been rehabbing his right middle finger injury since before spring training began. And he returned to Florida on Sunday after receiving a cortisone injection.
"That was always kind of like the last resort kind of thing, I'd say, because I had been throwing and was pretty close to coming back," Dobnak said of the shot. "[I] had a setback, then it got to the point where I didn't know if it was going to get better or not, so I was like, 'OK, let's do the cortisone and see what happens.' "
Dobnak's been dealing with his problematic throwing hand for a year. He's pulled two of the five pulleys, which hold the tendon to the bone, in that finger and has hardly played since. In 2021, he threw in 14 games with six starts and a 7.64 ERA.
There isn't any more structural damage to his finger, but Dobnak thinks his A1 pulley, closest to his palm, is causing pain now since it is overcompensating for the ruptured A2 and A4 pulleys. Dobnak said his finger only hurts when he throws and makes it so he can't finish his pitches.
Dobnak has joked that he should become a rock climber or hand doctor after all this, since he's become so familiar with an ailment that mostly affects climbers.
In the fastest timeline, Dobnak said he could potentially return by mid-August if the cortisone injection works. If not there is a last resort of surgery to repair the pulleys.
"There really aren't many studies on it for baseball," Dobnak said. "… There's not really guys that have gotten [the surgery] and come back to play baseball at the highest level. I'm trying to avoid that."
Dobnak and Kenta Maeda — who is nearing the end of his recovery from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement — could return to help the Twins out of the bullpen as the postseason nears, which would be boon for a group that has blown several late leads recently.
Buxton on the mic
As Byron Buxton approached home plate in the third inning Saturday, he heard a familiar voice ring out through Target Field. His 8-year-old son, Brixton, was the kid announcer who introduced him in between Luis Arraez and Carlos Correa.