MINNEAPOLIS -- The reinforcements have arrived.
On the heels of a winless road trip in which several positive COVID-19 tests afflicted the clubhouse and the Twins emptied their taxi squad in search of depth, Minnesota recalled No. 2 prospect Alex Kirilloff from the alternate training site and called up former first-round pick Nick Gordon for the first time.
In an expected laundry list of roster moves, the Twins also placed Miguel Sanó on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain, optioned Travis Blankenhorn, returned Tomás Telis to the alternate training site and selected the contract of utility infielder Tzu-Wei Lin.
Minnesota badly needs a jolt after having lost nine of its past 10 games, including a 13-12 heartbreaker in Oakland due to two errors on routine plays in Wednesday's series finale.
Kirilloff could be that jolt for a variety of different reasons. The outfielder and first baseman has already made his Major League debut (twice, counting his cameo in last season's playoffs), but Kirilloff, the No. 22 prospect in baseball, hasn't had a consistent chance to make an impact on the big league squad.
"I think there's certainly the possibility that we see this young man come up to the big leagues and stay," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He's going to have opportunities. He's going to be able to go out there. He's going to get at-bats. We're going to see what he can do."
Minnesota has immediate needs in both the outfield and at first base with Max Kepler and Kyle Garlick both dealing with COVID-19 and Sanó now moving to the IL with hamstring issues that have kept him out of the lineup since Tuesday. Moreover, Kepler's absence deprives the Twins of their best left-handed bat, and Kirilloff's advanced hitting approach from that side could bring more balance to the lineup.
Kirilloff, 23, is a career .317/.365/.498 hitter in the Minors despite losing a season to Tommy John surgery, but the Twins didn't carry him on their Opening Day roster after a difficult Spring Training, opting for a combination of Jake Cave, Garlick and Luis Arraez in left field instead.
"Nothing really extensive -- just keep doing what you’re doing," Kirilloff said of what the Twins told him when he was demoted. "And just stay ready to play and keep working on a routine and everything that I do and I need to do to stay ready, so that was the biggest thing."
Kirilloff now figures to take the majority of his at-bats in place of Sanó, who was hitting .111/.310/.244 with 20 strikeouts through 15 games, and fourth outfielder Cave, who has appeared in all 17 games this season while hitting .122/.204/.143 with a team-leading 21 strikeouts.
"Only certain people have a knack for [hitting]," Baldelli said. "I think he has a knack for it. And I think he was able to go over to St. Paul and settle in and relax and go get some at-bats and get to the point where he needed to be. I'm looking forward to seeing him out there, go at it, and just allowing him to just go play."
Simmons (COVID-19) cleared for return
Andrelton Simmons has cleared his COVID-19 testing and is ready to ramp back up to rejoining the Twins, Baldelli announced Friday. The shortstop has been sidelined since he tested positive before last Wednesday's doubleheader against the Red Sox.
Simmons had not been able to do much physical activity while down, Baldelli said, so the Twins will need to see him in workouts over the next several days before they can fully evaluate his timeline. If all goes well, he could return to action in time for Minnesota's upcoming three-game series in Cleveland.
Baldelli said that the remainder of the group sidelined with COVID-19 (Garlick and Kepler) and for contact tracing reasons (JT Riddle) are "a little ways off," though Caleb Thielbar is ahead of the pack after he was able to throw into a mattress in his hotel room while in quarantine to keep his arm fresh.
"We would like him to get out on the field and throw and get his arm maybe a day or two's worth of getting his arm back into shape, and then I think we could see him back as well," Baldelli said.
Sanó, Cruz updates
• Baldelli said that Sanó's injury doesn't look like a severe hamstring strain, but it was something that was going to keep him out for a minimum of seven to 10 days, necessitating a move to the IL. They will evaluate him again once that time passes.
• Nelson Cruz could barely walk at the end of Wednesday's game against the A's after he was hit in the right leg by a pitch in his final plate appearance on Tuesday, but Baldelli said that the veteran designated hitter arrived at the ballpark Friday ready to play.
"[He's] basically got a training room at his house, so even on off-days, he's able to go through a pretty good day's worth of treatment and take care of a lot of things," Baldelli said. "Again, he understands his body so well. He knows when he can play and when he shouldn't be playing."