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Twins’ roster purge claims veteran reliever Joe Smith

The right-hander started hot but had struggled since late May.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Joe Smith throws a pitch against the Detroit Tigers on July 24 in Detroit. After recent trades, the Twins designated Smith for assignment on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Lon Horwedel / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins’ shuffling of their 40-man roster to accommodate Tuesday’s deadline acquisitions spelled the end of Joe Smith’s days in Minnesota.

A 15-year veteran who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal on March 21, Smith was designated for assignment after Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Detroit at Target Field.

“It was certainly a difficult thing because he is certainly a beloved member of this group,” manager Rocco Baldelli said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Tigers. “There are a lot of people here who will hold him very close forever. Not every guy has an impact like that.”

Smith, 38, was 1-1 with a 4.68 earned-run average in 27⅓ innings this season but had been struggling of late. He didn’t allow an earned run until his 17th appearance of the season (13⅔ innings) but his ERA ballooned to 9.22 over his last 13⅔ innings, which included 24 hits, seven walks and seven home runs.

He pitched a scoreless ninth for the Twins on Tuesday.

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The Twins on Tuesday added Baltimore closer Jorge López and Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, who pitched exclusively in late-inning situations for the Tigers this season. They also activated left-hander Caleb Thielbar (hamstring) from the injury list on Wednesday.

“Having all of those different options gives you places you can go,” Baldelli said. “You don’t end up sitting there and saying, ‘You know, we have to pitch these four guys today no matter what.’

“We have guys that have experience, we have guys that have great stuff, we can attack guys — we’re not out there trying to trick them, we can go right at guys with really good stuff. That’s all you can ask for.”

On target

Sandy Leon started his first game as a Twin on Wednesday hitting .211 over 11 major-league seasons. But at his new home park, he was hitting .400 in 15 games, something of which he was keenly aware.

“Yes, I know that,” he said when it was brought to his attention after the Twins’ 4-1 victory over Detroit. Make that .419 after Leon went 2 for 3 with a two-run double in his Twins debut.

In 16 career games at Target Field, Leon is now 18 for 43 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.

“Every time I come here I have a good game, a good day,” he said. “I like Target Field. It’s nice, especially day games — you see the ball really good. It’s a good city. … It was always good to come here because I see the ball very well.”

Briefly

To make room on the active roster for Leon, whose contract was officially selected from Class AAA St. Paul on Wednesday, Caleb Hamilton was optioned. … To make roster space for starter Tyler Mahle when he suits up, as anticipated, for Thursday night’s game against Toronto at Target Field, the Twins were expected to option left-handed reliever Jovani Moran to Class AAA St. Paul.

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