Manager Rocco Baldelli and the rest of the Minnesota Twins will be elated to welcome back ace Sonny Gray into the mound. After a hamstring injury forced the 32-year old Gray out of the diamond in his previous start against the Chicago White Sox where he allowed two runs and five hits in four innings, the offseason acquisition from the Cincinnati Reds will be able to return to the mound sooner than later.

According to Megan Ryan of the Star Tribune, Gray is set to return on Thursday after a bullpen session tomorrow. To further test his hamstring, Gray will also be out on the field so he can have a better gauge on how he’s recovering.

There is no better time for Sonny Gray, he of the 3.10 ERA in 104.2 innings pitched (21 starts), to make his return with the Twins locked in a deadlock with co-AL Central division leaders Cleveland Guardians, both with a 68-64 record. Gray is in line to make his return against the New York Yankees, the Twins’ playoff nemesis over the years and the current AL East leader, in a crucial series that could swing multiple playoff races across the American League.

While the 26-year old Joe Ryan and 29 year-old Dylan Bundy have played an instrumental part in holding together the Twins’ pitching staff alongside Gray, Gray’s return will provide the Twins with the steady arm Minnesota traded for in the offseason. The Gray trade cost the Twins 2021 first-rounder Chase Petty, but so far Gray has proven worth it, leading the Twins staff starved of star power with a 2.1 WAR, according to FanGraphs.

The Twins will hope that there are no further setbacks in Sonny Gray’s hamstring recovery because he will play a crucial role in dictating whether the Twins could surpass the Guardians for the division lead or whether the Twins end up outside of the playoffs entirely.