Recurring wrist issue sends Kirilloff to IL

April 13th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins starting left fielder is going back to the injured list for a recurrence of the right wrist soreness that ultimately required season-ending surgery last July, manager Rocco Baldelli announced on Wednesday.

Kirilloff, 24, is one of the cornerstone young hitters the Twins hope to build around in the coming years. He had a clear path to an immediate everyday role in both 2021 and '22 due to his highly regarded bat, but he was held to only 59 games last season by the wrist, which sent him to the injured list twice -- once in May and once in July following his surgery to repair a ligament tear.

Kirilloff underwent imaging on Wednesday morning and plans to travel to Ohio on Thursday to consult with Dr. Thomas Graham, the orthopedic surgeon who led his treatment last year.

It's unclear how long this will sideline the young outfielder.

Though Baldelli expressed some initial hope that Kirilloff can eventually play through the soreness, Kirilloff noted that it’s tough for him to feel effective when he’s swinging through pain, and his focus remains on figuring out what’s still causing the issues to linger.

“It’s just frustrating, but I’m determined to try to get to the bottom of this,” Kirilloff said. “I don’t want to be short-sighted about it. Obviously, this is just one long, continuous puzzle to try to figure out.”

This feels like where Minnesota was last season with Kirilloff, when between his two stints on the IL with the wrist issue, all parties involved hoped he would be able to play through the soreness. But later, he ultimately opted to undergo surgery with the hope that he could sacrifice a chunk of his 2021 season to give himself a clean runway for a healthy and successful ‘22.

He acknowledges that hasn’t worked out.

Kirilloff said Wednesday that the pain is “definitely similar” to what he felt last season before the surgery, and that he’s never gotten to a point where he was swinging totally pain-free following the procedure. He started swinging last fall but had to shut himself down in November when the issue flared up again. He built himself back up in December in preparation for Spring Training -- but here he is, experiencing another shutdown.

This isn't just a two-year issue for Kirilloff; the wrist problems began in 2019, when he was with Double-A Pensacola, with sprains also sending him to the IL twice that season in April and June. This will mark his fifth career IL stint due to the right wrist, though he specified that the ‘19 issues were in a different area.

“I think the important thing now is just to try to take all the information we’ve been collecting over the last year and just try to make this decision moving forward,” Kirilloff said. “So whatever that looks like, I’m not sure yet.”

When healthy, the club’s former No. 2 prospect was expected to be a high-floor hitter, with little question of his ability to immediately hit MLB pitching and impact the ball hard to all fields. He hit .251/.299/.423 last year with strong batted-ball metrics despite playing through the wrist troubles, ranking sixth among Twins hitters in 2021 with a 91 mph average exit velocity and a 12.8 percent barrel rate, which was far above the MLB average of 7.9 percent.

But this season, he was uncharacteristically among the Majors’ worst in those categories. Kirilloff's normally solid bat was 1-for-17 with a single and seven strikeouts as he appeared in the Twins’ first five games.

“It’s just hard to be effective when I’m having pain, the amount of pain I’m having,” Kirilloff said.

Kirilloff also occupied an important role as the primary backup to the struggling Miguel Sanó at first base. Without him, it’s likely that Luis Arraez will have to fill in as the reserve first baseman. The newly recalled Trevor Larnach is set for regular at-bats as the starting left fielder following a strong Spring Training performance but a slow start with Triple-A St. Paul.

Larnach is also a talented top prospect who will continue to adjust to the big leagues following a .223/.322/.350 debut in 79 games last season, and he could be a solid everyday fill-in if he shows immediate progress.

But for now, the Twins will simply have to wait and hope with Kirilloff.

“I think with some injuries, you have a pretty good feel as far as what's to come,” Baldelli said. “But sometimes, with certain parts of the body, you just don't know.”