He has tried ligament surgery, cortisone shots and lots of rest and rehab, but Alex Kirilloff's damaged right wrist still hurts when he swings a bat. So Kirilloff and the Twins have decided on a new and more radical strategy: shortening the bone in his wrist.
Kirilloff, injured while sliding in a game in May 2021 and never completely healthy since, will undergo ulnar-shortening surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles, a procedure that ends his second season prematurely, just as his first was ended by the same injury. Dr. Steven Shin, who has also operated on athletes such as Stephen Curry, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, will shave a few millimeters of bone out of Kirilloff's wrist, an attempt to relieve the bone-on-bone pain where the protective cartilage was irreparably damaged more than a year ago.
It's a relatively rare procedure for a professional athlete, and therefore a potentially risky one. But it has become clear this season that when Kirilloff's wrist flares up, he is a far less productive hitter.
"It's a substantial procedure. But we're hoping that by getting it done now, it gives him a chance to the offseason to get right, start swinging the bat again, to feel good," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Obviously this isn't something that would be contemplated unless we thought it was absolutely necessary, unless [Kirilloff] thought it was absolutely necessary, and the doctor, too."
It's necessary, Baldelli said, because even cortisone shots weren't easing the pain for long, bone-on-bone contact isn't something likely to heal itself, and "it just started to bother him more and more. … It's kind of the same look that he had before we shut him down [last year], too. It came from him, unsolicited — he mentioned, like, it's getting to be much tougher."
On the mend
Not all the injury news was negative, however. For the first time, Baldelli sounded relatively confident that three long-missing young players will play again this season.
Bailey Ober, out since early May because of a groin injury, will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, Baldelli said, "and is hopeful for a September return." Ober, who started 20 games for the Twins as a rookie last year, has a 4.01 ERA in seven starts this season; his return would take a lot of pressure off the starting rotation.
Fellow righthander Josh Winder, who was shut down last month after feeling a recurrence of the impingement in his pitching shoulder that ended his 2021 season early, has recovered enough to start throwing again, too, Baldelli said, and could also return next month.
And outfielder Trevor Larnach, who has missed six weeks following surgery in June to repair a core muscle strain, is nearing the end of his recovery period and could also return next month.
Baldelli declined to be more specific with their expected returns, saying that setbacks could alter their timelines.
A little trickery
When Toronto pinch runner Otto Lopez tried to steal second base in the ninth inning Sunday, he was dismayed to discover he had been forced out on a Twins double play, shortstop Nick Gordon to second baseman Jorge Polanco.
Except he hadn't. Bo Bichette had smacked a fly ball to center field; Polanco was headed to second base to cover the steal attempt, not a double-play pivot. Gordon, sensing the opportunity to double up Lopez, pantomimed fielding a ground ball and shoveling it to Polanco, who pivoted and pretended to throw the ball to first base.
It worked — Lopez stopped for a moment before suddenly realizing the ruse — but he retreated to first base before Gilberto Celestino's throw could arrive.
"We practice that. We know if the runner goes, most of the time he won't watch [the ball]. He's just trying to steal the bag," Polanco said. "So we just fake it. We did everything like it was a double play."
The trick, Polanco said, is not to laugh as you're throwing an invisible ball around. "We have to be serious. We want to make it look as real as possible, and if I start laughing, maybe he will know it's not."
- Chris Archer enjoyed his best start since late June, giving up two runs on four hits over five innings Sunday. "Even when they were fouling off tons of pitches, I just stayed adamant about going into the strike zone or very, very close to it," he said.
- Emilio Pagan left the game after facing three batters in the sixth inning, but he said it was just the result of a cramp in his oblique muscle that was making it hard to finish his pitches.