Kirilloff to undergo another season-ending wrist surgery

August 7th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- In May, when the Twins hoped Alex Kirilloff could play through the chronic soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist, the young hitter described the lack of spacing between the bones in the wrist, contributing to these prolonged issues, and a more invasive last-ditch procedure that involved shortening the ulna bone in his arm.

"I really hope it doesn’t get to that," Kirilloff said at the time.

Unfortunately for Kirilloff and the Twins, it's come to that.

Despite a brief period of encouragement earlier this summer, Kirilloff's wrist continued to trouble him to the point where he determined at the end of July that he could no longer swing without considerable pain. As a result, he has opted to undergo the season-ending ulnar shortening procedure Tuesday in Los Angeles, with the Twins hoping the 24-year-old will be ready for Spring Training.

"Any time you’re talking about shaving a bone down or shortening a bone, I mean, that’s a substantial procedure," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "But we’re hopeful that by getting it done now, it gives us a chance to use the offseason to get right, to start swinging the bat again, to feel good and to start getting ready for next year.

"Obviously, this isn’t something that would be contemplated or done unless we thought it was absolutely necessary -- unless AK thought it was absolutely necessary, and the doctor, too."

Though Kirilloff was not available for comment Sunday, he described the surgery in May as one that would involve breaking the ulna and shortening it before the insertion of a metal plate and screws.

"There’s a joint where the cartilage is pretty much gone, so that joint where the bones were interacting is what they were working on and trying to figure out how to create space [between the bones]," Kirilloff said at the time. "The only other procedure is to create more space."

This will mark the second consecutive season in which Kirilloff will undergo season-ending surgery on the wrist. Last July, he went through a procedure to repair a torn ligament in the wrist and attempt to create more spacing in the wrist, which he hoped would resolve the issues that hurt his power and caused pain while swinging. But his road back has been marred by setback after setback, starting with the first offseason ramp-up following that surgery.

Kirilloff had tried to manage the continued soreness and pain in the area with cortisone shots, and he had been optimistic when he experienced some relief through that earlier this year. But his most recent cortisone injection over the All-Star break didn't help with the pain, and his most recent flare-up, which resulted in his latest stint on the injured list, led to this decision.

"As time went on, it just started to bother him more and more, to the point where we as a group were watching him hit in his final week of action, and it didn’t look like he could put the good swing on the ball that he can do," Baldelli said. "He’s a good hitter. And it’s kind of the same look that he had before we shut him down the other time, too. Then it came from him, unsolicited, he mentioned it to someone. Like, it’s getting to be too much right now."

Kirilloff, the club's first-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline throughout his Minor League career, considered a high-floor hitting prospect due to his contact ability and talent of hitting the ball hard to all fields. But he hasn't come close to reaching that potential, as he posted a .722 OPS while hampered by the wrist last season and a .651 OPS this season.

Though Kirilloff hit .290/.311/.507 (an .818 OPS) in the first 20 games following his return from the Minors in June, his OPS plummeted to .561 in his final 15 games -- a span which included only one extra-base hit -- as his ground-ball rate nearly doubled from 35.1 percent in June to 64.3 percent in July.

"It’s hard, because when he was back and feeling good and swinging the bat well, he’s a real boost for our lineup and he had some big at-bats and he’s a good hitter," Baldelli said. "We like having him in the lineup when he’s feeling like himself and able to put all those different good swings on the ball, but he didn’t think he could continue to play on."

The Twins hoped that Kirilloff would be -- and still can be -- their cornerstone first baseman and corner outfielder moving forward. They haven't had that this year, but breakout seasons from Jose Miranda and Nick Gordon have helped them weather Kirilloff's injury issues.

Minnesota hopes that, at last, this is the long-term solution the club has long sought and that Kirilloff can finally put this saga to bed