Cave lands on injured list; Kirilloff update

Refsnyder logs pair of hits, RBI after being recalled from Triple-A St. Paul

May 16th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' center field depth got much less certain on Saturday, when they placed on the 60-day injured list with a stress reaction in his lower back and selected the contract of from Triple-A St. Paul.

According to manager Rocco Baldelli, Cave has a fracture to one of the vertebrae in his back and has been battling pain in the area throughout the season. The pain once again intensified when Minnesota was in Chicago on the last road trip, and Cave was held out of the series opener against Oakland on Friday.

"It’s not a good thing, but it’s not quite as scary as it sounds," Baldelli said. "It’s something we do see occasionally in the game, but it’s something that’s going to keep him off the field for a while."

With Cave on the shelf, Max Kepler will likely be relied upon as often as possible in center field, considering the Twins' depth behind him is Refsnyder, who has never made a Major League appearance in center field and has only 14 professional outings at the position. Kyle Garlick could also factor in, though he's also been playing through a minor groin issue.

Refsnyder played one game in center field for the Saints, but said he's comfortable at the position after seeing practice reps and game action there throughout Spring Training. Though he's had plenty of infield experience as part of his 10-year professional career spanning seven organizations, Refsnyder expects to focus on the outfield with Minnesota.

The 30-year-old started in left field and hit sixth on Saturday, joining ByungHo Park as the only Korean-born players to appear in a Twins uniform. Refsnyder went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in a 5-4 win over the A’s, with the latter setting up Miguel Sanó’s winning, three-run blast.

"I feel really, really blessed," Refsnyder said prior to his Minnesota debut. "I don't take these opportunities for granted. I'm going to play as hard as I possibly can and lay it all out there. Being that up-and-down guy throughout my career, you kind of savor these moments a little bit longer than you'd like to admit."

According to Baldelli and general manager Thad Levine, the club also considered other options among the group at St. Paul, but the Twins preferred Refsnyder's bat to that of Keon Broxton, especially against left-handed pitching.

Gilberto Celestino, ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline, is the only other natural center fielder on Minnesota's 40-man roster, but was not considered as strongly in order to keep him on his development timeline.

"When we talked to [Triple-A manager] Toby Gardenhire and [farm director] Alex Hassan, and Rocco evaluated the needs he had, some of the upcoming pitching matchups, he ultimately made the decision that Refsnyder was the guy that he wanted to pursue," Levine said.

Kirilloff: 'Just seeing if I can manage what I have'

Outfielder and No. 2 prospect Alex Kirilloff hit off a tee on Friday as he continued to push his sprained right wrist in an effort to see if he can manage the issue as part of a return to the field this season. He said on Friday that he'd been taking dry swings for several days and had been feeling mostly OK -- albeit a little sore.

Though Kirilloff also spent two stints on the IL as a Minor Leaguer in 2019 with a sprained right wrist, he described this issue as "completely different," with the MRI that he underwent in the area revealing the trouble was "a little bit more in-depth" than his previous wrist injury, though he declined to offer any more specifics as to the nature of the problem.

When Kirilloff visited Dr. Thomas Graham, a specialist in Ohio, during the Twins' last road trip to Chicago, the outfielder was informed that a lot of athletes in hockey and tennis are able to play through the symptoms and described the visit as "encouraging."

"At this point, it's just seeing if I can manage what I have," Kirilloff said.

Kirilloff, who went on the 10-day IL on May 5, said that he's trying to push himself a little more in his progress every day. He took ground balls and outfield fly balls without issue on Friday, but the matter of a possible return to the field depends on his response to his swings -- and he admitted that he couldn't completely shake the worry of not being able to manage the injury.

"In the back of your mind, you know that it is a possibility," Kirilloff said. "But I'd just rather take it one day at a time."

Levine: Twins still focused on internal options

Minnesota has had to dig much deeper into both its position player and pitching depth than the club envisioned by this point in the season -- but Levine maintained on Saturday that the focus for improvements remains within the organization.

"Mid-May is a rare time to find it," Levine said. "Nothing imminent. Nothing I could tell you, 'There are these three or four different routes we could go.' [At this] moment in time, I would say all those options are internal. With the number of people we’ve had injured, I think most of those internal options are by and large here right now."

The organization is still carefully monitoring the waiver wire for external help, but Levine said that the Twins are being careful not to "sell low" on many of the depth players that they amassed on their Triple-A roster before the season -- though he did acknowledge that both the Major League and Minor League groups have not performed as well as they anticipated.

"There is a sentiment of resolve that we have that maybe we've endured the underbelly of it and that now we're going to get the true fruits of the reasons we really were pursuing some of these players," Levine said. "Let's not make a short-term decision on a player only to find out the very reason we were attracted to him, another team gets to reap the benefit."