Minnesota Twins’ Alex Kirilloff watches his two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
CLEVELAND — The Twins haven’t had much of an opportunity to see the hitter that healthy Alex Kirilloff could be at the major league level.
It was just weeks into his major league career when he injured his wrist on a slide, disrupting the course of his early career. It’s been more than two years since then, and Kirilloff has had two surgeries to address the problem in his wrist.
When he returned this weekend to the major league team, he said he felt like his wrist was in a “really good spot,” similar to where it was before he got injured in the first place. If that’s the case, and the wrist is no longer affecting him at the plate, sapping him of his power, the Twins may finally see the player who was once one of their top prospects.
“I’m very happy to see him here, and I’m pumped that he’s healthy. But the last thing I want to do is put any sort of massive expectation on him or make this anything more than what it is,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s in a good place, he’s worked his way back, he’s swinging the bat very well and he’s earned an opportunity to come up and play at the big league level.”
Just days after the Twins decided to option him to Triple-A, they jumped on the opportunity to bring him back when reliever Caleb Thielbar landed on the injured list on Friday. Since he was being brought back as an injury replacement, he did not have to wait 10 days after being optioned.
The timing, he said, was a bit surprising — every time he’s been called up, he said it wasn’t something he had been expecting. Kirilloff was out taking batting practice at CHS Field in St. Paul when manager Toby Gardenhire called him over to deliver the news.
Both the Twins and Kirilloff hope that’s the last time Gardenhire delivers that news to him.
If he hits like he’s been hitting at Triple-A and the wrist continues to feel good, there’s a very good chance it will be. Kirilloff was hitting .316 with a 1.040 OPS and three home runs in his 10 games played there. His time in St. Paul came after an extended spring training, during which he stayed in Fort Myers, Fla., at the Twins’ complex, continuing to get at-bats and test out his wrist.
“I would say early on in spring training, there were definitely a lot of things to work out with how everything was feeling, but it was kind of week by week,” he said. “It was getting better every single week, I guess I could say, for the most part. Once I got into live at-bats and our games, things started to flow the way I was hoping.”
With his wrist feeling how he wants it to, there’s a maintenance process to keep himself feeling healthy. He has a better understanding of how things are connected within his arm and upper body, and that’s something he said he’s been paying more attention to.
“I feel like it’s in a better spot than what it has been in the past,” he said. “Definitely really optimistic with how everything’s feeling right now. Not to say that’s not going to take a lot of work and continued preparation and recovery and the ins and outs. Just have to take care of it, but I feel like I have a bit more tools in my toolbag to do that.”
The Twins optioned Josh Winder to Triple-A and recalled Jorge Alcala on Saturday. Winder pitched just once while in the majors, giving up a pair of runs in 2/3 of an inning on April 30. Baldelli cited the need for another one-inning guy because of the tight ballgames they had been playing, and said they’ve seen Alcala’s stuff tick up since they sent him to St. Paul last month.