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Playing through an injury is a hallowed baseball tradition. Alex Kirilloff has never gotten the hang of it.

Kirilloff, optioned to Class AAA on Thursday in the midst of a long slump — he's batting .143 in 31 games since May 1 — was restored to the Twins' roster Tuesday and put on the injured list. Tightness in his lower back, he confessed to the Twins' training staff, has prevented him from rotating normally during his swing, which he, and the team, hope is at least partly responsible for the outfielder and first baseman's slow start to 2024.

"It's just been something that's been bothering me for a handful of weeks now, probably three or four weeks. Kind of gradually progressed," Kirilloff said. "The big thing is not being able to prepare to swing the amount I wanted to. Some apprehension at times with fully letting yourself go and taking your 'A' swing."

Kirilloff underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test May 26 and has been undergoing treatment on his back ever since. But he never indicated to the Twins that the problem was lingering.

"When things happen, the first thing in your mind is never, 'I need to stop playing,' [or] 'I need to go on the IL,' " Kirilloff said. "It's always like, 'All right, what can I do to get myself feeling a little bit better so I can do my job to the best of my ability?' … How can I manage it so it doesn't get worse?' "

Even when Kirilloff was sent to Class AAA St. Paul, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, "It wasn't something he brought up in the moment. He was focused more on the baseball side of the discussion, which is where his mind goes. He's a baseball player, and that's what he's thinking about."

Kirilloff tried to play with a wrist injury in 2021 that eventually required surgery, and he batted .138 over the final nine games before going on the injured list. In April 2022, he played five games, went 1-for-17 and went on the IL with more wrist pain. And last July, he batted .182 in the eight games leading up to his IL stint for a shoulder injury.

Instances like that are why teams are increasingly reluctant to let players remain on the field while battling even minor injuries, though there are notable exceptions. The Twins, for instance, kept Carlos Correa in the lineup last season despite a lingering case of plantar fasciitis.

Still, when he considered how to return to his healthy hitting form, he realized his back needed to be addressed.

"As a player, you always want to stay on the field. At the same time, you don't want to further injure [yourself or] not be able to do your job the way you're expected," Kirilloff said. "I'm still learning and trying to make the best decisions moving forward."

For now, that means getting a second opinion on why his back doesn't feel right, and taking daily treatment to change that.

Sorting out options

The reversal of Kirilloff's option to the minors means he will earn his approximately $7,200 daily salary while on the injured list.

It has an advantage for the Twins, too. Kirilloff has only one option remaining, meaning he can only be sent to the minors without his permission in one more season. If Kirilloff remains in the majors in 2024, the Twins would retain the option to send him down again next year.


* A hearing in the Diamond Sports Group bankruptcy case Tuesday turned contentious over the issue of how much the Bally's regional sports networks must reveal to Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL about their income from their cable and satellite distributors.

MLB, which has made it clear it intends to challenge Diamond's plans to emerge from bankruptcy late next month and remain in business, argued that more exact numbers are necessary to do so, but the distributors maintain that the figures amount to "trade secrets." Federal bankruptcy judge Christopher Lopez limited, at least for now, MLB's access to all but aggregate numbers.

* Vikings first-round draft picks Dallas Turner and J.J. McCarthy threw out ceremonial first pitches before Tuesday's game. Turner's pitch sailed too far wide for Twins coach Tommy Watkins to catch it, but hey, Turner is a defensive lineman. McCarthy's pitch? It also sailed to the backstop.

* The St. Paul Saints, thanks mostly to a second-inning grand slam by Brooks Lee, defeated the Toledo Mud Hens 5-4 in a game at CHS Field called in the sixth inning because of rain.