Kirilloff to have season-ending wrist surgery

Twelve of Twins' Draft picks sign professional contracts with club

July 22nd, 2021

CHICAGO -- Twins outfielder and first baseman will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist, the club announced Wednesday. The procedure with Dr. Thomas Graham will take place on Friday in Ohio.

Kirilloff was placed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday, with Willians Astudillo recalled from Triple-A St. Paul in a corresponding move.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Kirilloff's rehab from the procedure is expected to take around eight weeks at the club's Minor League facility in Fort Myers, Fla., with the hope that the rookie will be able to swing without pain and spend some time around his teammates in Minneapolis before the end of the regular season. Regardless of his recovery, the Twins will not push Kirilloff into any more Major League games in 2021.

"AK had a successful stint in the big leagues, but we knew that his wrist was an issue and it was something that he was playing through," Baldelli said. "We knew there could be a point in the year where he just could not continue playing through this, and the right and smart thing to do would be to go ahead and have the procedure that we knew was probably coming."

The issue stems from an injury initially sustained in early May, when the former top prospect missed 16 games due to what was described at the time as a right wrist sprain, which he and the club believed might have occurred on a slide into second base.

As part of that recovery, Kirilloff had the choice to either undergo the surgical procedure or return to the field -- and at the time, the 23-year-old opted for the latter in an attempt to play through the issue. He has hit .251/.299/.423 with eight homers and 11 doubles in 59 games as a rookie while largely taking over the everyday role that previously belonged to Miguel Sanó.

His average exit velocity remained in the league's 80th percentile, while his expected batting average ranked in the 93rd percentile and his expected slugging percentage sat in the 92nd percentile, according to Statcast.

"I think we got to see some real glimpses, in stretches, of what he's capable of," Baldelli said. "I think health kept him from being able to do a lot more. But he's a guy that can not only compete at this level, but really put up good numbers and compete."

But even as Kirilloff continued to produce league-average results with one healthy arm, the pain in the right wrist continued to slowly worsen. Had the pain while swinging vanished entirely, Kirilloff might have been able to avoid surgery.

As it stands, the pain remained at the point where Kirilloff couldn't put proper swings on some pitches, Baldelli said, and the young outfielder sought another meeting with Graham on Monday, at which point it was determined that undergoing the procedure was the right decision.

Baldelli didn't rule out the possibility of the club seeking out opportunities in a Winter League or instructional league this offseason for Kirilloff to make up some of his missed at-bats.

"We knew once he started to come back, [that] he was feeling better, but we knew he was still dealing with this," Baldelli said. "It did not go away at any point. And once we knew that, we knew what we were dealing with."

Kirilloff has a history of issues with that same wrist, which he sprained in April 2019 while playing for Double-A Pensacola. Following his initial return from that injury, he went back on the IL for two and a half weeks in June after the wrist continued to bother him.

With the Twins not expected to contend for the postseason and gearing up to be sellers at the upcoming July 30 Trade Deadline, there was little reason for Kirilloff and the club to delay any needed procedure, especially if any additional wait could have jeopardized his ability to be fully ready for the 2022 season.

In his absence, Sanó should resume duties as the regular first baseman, while Mitch Garver, Willians Astudillo and even Luis Arraez could also start to rotate through the position.

Twins sign 12 Draft picks
Twelve of the most recent players drafted into the Twins' organization last week arrived at the club's Minor League facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and signed their professional contracts on Wednesday.

Those players were, in order of their drafting: LHP Cade Povich (Round 3, Nebraska); 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Round 4, Oklahoma State); RHP Travis Adams (Round 6, Sacramento State); 3B Jake Rucker (Round 7, Tennessee); SS Ernie Yake (Round 10, Gonzaga); OF Kyler Fedko (Round 12, UConn); RHP David Festa (Round 13, Seton Hall); RHP Pierson Ohl (Round 14, Grand Canyon); SS Mikey Perez (Round 15, UCLA); RHP Jonathan Lavallee (Round 16, Long Beach State); 2B Dylan Neuse (Round 17, Texas Tech); and LHP Jaylen Nowlin (Round 19, Chipola College).