Alex Kirilloff first injured his right wrist in 2019, so he's well-practiced in ignoring the pain, doing extra exercises, avoiding further damage. But the time has finally come to fix it.
The rookie outfielder and first baseman, who reinjured the wrist in May but soon came back to keep playing, has decided to undergo long-dreaded surgery this week to repair the torn ligament and work toward a fully healthy 2022.
"We knew there could be a point in the year where he just could not continue playing through this, and the right and smart thing would be to have the procedure that we knew was probably coming," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. A rest and rehab program, primarily in Fort Myers, will take at least eight weeks, he said. "We're not going to try to get him back to major league games this year. The goal is to get him back to 100 percent, where he can swing the bat pain-free."
Kirilloff, placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time this season, will fly to Cleveland to be operated on Friday by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Graham, the same specialist he consulted when the pain flared up again in early May. The doctor at the time gave him exercise and treatments to follow in hopes of putting the surgery off until season's end.
But in a conference call on Monday, the team, the doctor and the patient all agreed that it's better to get it done now to avoid any complications that affect next season. The Twins, after all, are far out of the playoff race, and the injury had clearly hampered the rookie at the plate.
"He probably could not put certain swings on the ball that he naturally could, that he normally would. Just wasn't able to do it," Baldelli said. "We got to see some real glimpses, in stretches, of what he's capable of. I think health kept him from being able to do a lot more."
Kirilloff hit four home runs in three days immediately before going on the injured list in May. Since returning on May 21, the 23-year-old former first-round pick has hit only four more, in 183 at-bats. He was hitting only .226 in July, with a .293 on-base percentage.
"There was always some hope this could be avoided, but it was based on what it felt like when Alex swung. It did not go away at any point," Baldelli said. "It was a steady increase in soreness, and we were getting to the point in the season where, if it wasn't improving and was actually going in the wrong direction, do we just get this done? And the answer was yes."
The early end to Kirilloff's season has a couple of major effects on the Twins. For one thing, it allowed them to recall Willians Astudillo from Class AAA St. Paul, an important addition to their bench given all the injuries they have absorbed lately. Kirilloff is the fifth outfielder currently on the injured list, and Luis Arraez's status is uncertain.
Astudillo was hitting .254 with four homers in 40 games at St. Paul.
Kirilloff's absence also means the platoon arrangement between first baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Max Kepler — with Kirilloff moving between the two positions depending on that day's starting pitcher — is over. Kepler is already back to playing every day, and Sano figures to get the majority of playing time at first, though Astudillo or even Mitch Garver or Arraez might get a start or two.
For Sano, who entered Wednesday's game hitting .197 with 15 home runs, it's a chance to rescue his second straight lost season.
"Miguel is going to get a really nice opportunity to get a ton of at-bats. He has not lost focus in any way," Baldelli said. "He's ready for this opportunity. I talked to him and told him, this is his time."
- Arraez's right knee, injured when he fell while trying to catch Jose Abreu's sinking line drive on Tuesday, was still swollen on Wednesday, but the Twins aren't ready to sideline him yet, Baldelli said. He'll be evaluated again on Thursday. Arraez had been taking grounders at first base recently, in order to keep him in the lineup.
- The Twins signed a dozen of their 21 draft picks on Wednesday, including third-rounder Cade Povich, a lefthander from Nebraska. First-rounders Chase Petty, a high school pitcher from New Jersey, and shortstop Noah Miller from Fredonia, Wis., are expected be at Target Field this weekend to take physicals before signing.
Also signing Wednesday: Fourth-rounder Christian Encarnacion-Strand, an Oklahoma State third baseman; sixth-rounder Travis Adams, a righthander from Sacramento State; seventh-rounder Jake Rucker, a third baseman from Tennessee; 10th-rounder Ernie Yake, a third baseman from Gonzaga; 12th-rounder Kyler Fedko, an outfielder from UConn; 13th-rounder David Festa, a righthander from Seton Hall; 14th-rounder Pierson Ohl, a righthander from Grand Canyon; 15th-rounder Mikey Perez, a UCLA infielder; 16th-rounder Jonathan Lavallee, a righthander from Long Beach State; 17th-rounder Dylan Neuse, an outfielder from Texas Tech; and 19th-rounder Jaylen Nowlin, a lefthander from Chipola College.