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Kirilloff ready to return strong after year off

Twins' No. 6 prospect missed all of '17 after undergoing Tommy John surgery
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a strong first professional season in 2016 after being the No. 15 overall selection in that year's Draft, outfielder Alex Kirilloff was hoping to build it on his progress with a successful '17 campaign.

Instead, Kirilloff, ranked as Minnesota's No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow during Spring Training last year and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. But Kirilloff, 20, rehabbed without any issues and will head to this year's Spring Training with no limitations.

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a strong first professional season in 2016 after being the No. 15 overall selection in that year's Draft, outfielder Alex Kirilloff was hoping to build it on his progress with a successful '17 campaign.

Instead, Kirilloff, ranked as Minnesota's No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow during Spring Training last year and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. But Kirilloff, 20, rehabbed without any issues and will head to this year's Spring Training with no limitations.

"I'd never had a significant injury like that before to cause me to miss that much time so it was hard at first," Kirilloff said at his first TwinsFest. "But there were two ways to look at it. You can look it as a lost year and be down on yourself the whole time or look at it as a new challenge to get better. So that's what I tried to do. My body feels a lot stronger and I'm excited for 2018."

Kirilloff, who had the surgery in March, started throwing again four months after the operation and started hitting a month after that before being fully cleared in November. The rehab process is different than it is for pitchers, but it was still a grueling year for Kirilloff, who added that not being able to play reminded him how much passion he has for playing baseball.

"I'm just happy to be able to play a full healthy season again," Kirilloff said. "I'm going to take each step as it comes and control what I can control. I'll be happy to be out there again and don't want to put any expectations on it."

Kirilloff, who is expected to develop plenty of power, hit .306/.341/.454 with seven homers and nine doubles in 55 games with Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2016. He's expected to open this year at Class A Cedar Rapids, likely alongside No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis, and the Twins don't have plans to move Kirilloff along any faster in the system because of the year lost due to surgery.

"I don't think you need to rush him too much," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "We're not too worried about the timeline. We'll just make sure he's in a good place physically to hit the ground running. But he feels good and just wants to get going. It's hard when a guy misses a year like that and has to hit the reset button."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins