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Could Twins call up Kirilloff due to injuries?

Beat reporter Park answers Twitter questions from fans
@dohyoungpark
September 10, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Though Minnesota held a 5 1/2-game lead over the Indians in the American League Central with only 19 games remaining in the regular season entering Monday, it hasn't been a smooth month for the Twins, who lost Michael Pineda, their most consistent starter since the All-Star break, to

MINNEAPOLIS -- Though Minnesota held a 5 1/2-game lead over the Indians in the American League Central with only 19 games remaining in the regular season entering Monday, it hasn't been a smooth month for the Twins, who lost Michael Pineda, their most consistent starter since the All-Star break, to a 60-game suspension, and have dealt with injuries to Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Sam Dyson, Miguel Sanó and Nelson Cruz.

That means that there's plenty to discuss, not only with regards to the club's plans for the postseason, but also about how the Twins will manage this rash of injuries through the final three weeks of the regular season after being forced to play an outfield of Eddie Rosario, Ian Miller and LaMonte Wade Jr. for most of Sunday's series finale against Cleveland.

Let's dive right in to this week's Twins Inbox.

My guess would be no, especially since Kepler's MRIs on Monday showed no damage. Even with Buxton (left shoulder subluxation) out for the rest of the season, the Twins still have three capable outfielders at the Major League level in Rosario, Cave and Gonzalez, with more proven depth options who can play the outfield in Wade, Luis Arraez and Willians Astudillo.

That's obviously not an ideal defensive arrangement, and Cave and Gonzalez are still on the mend from various ailments of their own. But I'm not sure that the answer to the Twins' current situation is to take a chance on Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and hope that he can adjust to Major League pitching in time to be a significant contributor for a playoff run -- and doubly so because the Twins' reason for taking Kirilloff out of consideration for the Arizona Fall League was to get the top prospect off his feet earlier following the wear and tear of a full season of baseball.

First, a few clarifying things: This is Pineda's first suspension for a violation of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, not his second, and his teammates said after the suspension that they had more sympathy for Pineda's situation than personal disappointment toward the big right-hander.

With that said, to answer your question, the options are fairly limited right now if you're asking about pitchers that could step in this season. Essentially the entire Triple-A starting rotation is already pitching out of the bullpen for the Twins, and at this point, with four soon-to-be-healthy starters in José Berríos, Kyle Gibson (currently on the injured list), Jake Odorizzi and Martin Pérez who have performed well at various points in the season, my thought is that the Twins will stick with those four.

They only need four starters for the playoffs, and for now, using an opener with Lewis Thorpe or Devin Smeltzer has also been reasonably effective in filling the fifth rotation spot.

It doesn't look like it -- especially given the current state of attrition on the Twins' roster. As manager Rocco Baldelli has insinuated throughout the season, the idea of Rosario "swinging at everything" doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing like it would be for many other hitters, because Rosario can actually do damage with those pitches and isn't striking out a ton.

Rosario hasn't been slugging for much in the second half, with a .425 slugging percentage since the All-Star break, but Baldelli is all too aware of the fact that Rosario can get on one of his patented hot streaks at any given time, and the Twins' skipper has shown a willingness throughout the season to stick with his players through struggles, as he did with Sano and Cave.

During the regular season, absolutely. Astudillo is 6-for-16 with a double since he was activated off the 10-day injured list on Sept. 1, and his versatility in being able to catch, play three infield positions and the corner-outfield spots will be a significant part of the Twins' ability to weather their current injury concerns and rest their starters through the end of the regular season.

As I've pointed out in my postseason roster projections, I'm less sure that there would be room for Astudillo on a potential playoff roster if everybody is healthy, because he likely wouldn't be an offensive or defensive upgrade over either Jason Castro or Mitch Garver at catcher, and the crowded infield and outfield situations make it difficult to carve out a spot for Astudillo. With that said, if Buxton's injury ends up being more serious than originally thought, Astudillo would likely be the first man in.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.