Twins place Kirilloff on IL, activate Sanó

May 6th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins placed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday with a sprained right wrist after he saw a hand and wrist specialist in the Twin Cities earlier in the day. The club activated first baseman from the IL in a corresponding move.

Kirilloff, the No. 2 prospect in the organization per MLB Pipeline, was said to be "moderately improved" from the soreness and stiffness he experienced at the ballpark on Tuesday. The Twins will take him to Detroit on their upcoming road trip, during which he will drive to Dayton, Ohio, to seek an additional opinion from Dr. Thomas Graham.

Manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins would not establish a timeline for Kirilloff's recovery or discuss his next steps until after that meeting.

"I think before we say anything or really know anything for certain, we’d like to let the experts, let the doctors really get their heads together and make a determination before we know exactly what we’re dealing with, but even more importantly, what comes next for AK," Baldelli said.

Baldelli said the Twins couldn't pinpoint the issue to any specific play on Monday, but he noted that Kirilloff mentioned the issue following a slide into second base. Kirilloff went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three runs scored and slid headfirst into the base on his second-inning two-bagger.

Kirilloff was said to have played through the injury at the end of Monday's game, but he was unable to participate in baseball activities on Tuesday.

Kirilloff has a history of trouble with his right wrist, which he sprained in April 2019 while playing for Double-A Pensacola. Though he returned after a month, he went on the injured list again for two-and-a-half weeks in June after the wrist continued to bother him.

The issue held him to 94 games that season.

"As far as it’s connected maybe to anything that’s happened in the past, it’s difficult to know for sure," Baldelli said. "It’s also why we’re taking the time before making any determinations to have him also see another hand/wrist specialist, and then we can all talk."

Though Kirilloff began his MLB career 0-for-15, he was experiencing tough luck on hard-hit balls and saw that fortune turn with four homers, two doubles and 10 RBIs across his last four games. He led the Twins in average exit velocity (96.5 mph) and hard-hit rate (63.3 percent) in limited action.

"It’s a tough thing to take in a lot of ways," Baldelli said. "He’s playing, he’s playing in the big leagues, doing a hell of a job and then this comes up. Certainly not feeling good about it, but I don’t think he’s going to have trouble handling anything that comes his way."

Sanó activated after opportunity to work on timing
While much of Sanó's focus over the last two weeks has been his recovery from a mild right hamstring strain, the Twins have also given the slugger plenty of extra work to regain his timing at the plate following a .111/.310/.244 start.

He missed 12 games with the hamstring issue, but he spent the last few days at Target Field hitting against the velocity machine to help him damage hittable fastballs in the strike zone, which played a factor in his 20 strikeouts in 58 plate appearances to open 2021.

"I think this time has been well spent for Miggy," Baldelli said. "I think getting him on the field, spending some time on his swing, but just getting him on the field for some baseball activity is important. Simply rehabbing his hamstring and then putting him back in a ballgame the first day his hamstring is feeling significantly better, that wouldn’t have made sense to me."

Sanó's patience and plate approach have been better than ever, with his 22.4 percent walk rate leading the team and marking a career high. He just hasn't combined that with an ability to hit strikes, with his 62.8 percent contact rate in the zone representing a career low by a wide margin.

That's part of why Sanó's slugging percentage against fastballs has dropped from .729 in 2019 and .598 last season to a paltry .370 in limited action this season -- and addressing that is the biggest way the Twins can help their slugger get back into form.

He said that the work against the velocity machine helps him stay on top of fastballs so pitchers won't attack him with high heat, and his key is to make sure his hands don't get too low, which is something he discussed with Fernando Tatís Sr. -- his coach in the Dominican Republic -- during his IL stint.

"I've been taking a lot of good pitches," Sanó said. "I'll try to make more contact. I've been working the last few weeks, so I feel really much better now. So now, we go out there and put it in the game."

Worth noting
• The Twins optioned Brandon Waddell to Triple-A St. Paul before Wednesday's game to make room on the roster for starter Lewis Thorpe. Waddell took the loss in Tuesday's game after allowing three runs to score in the 10th.