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Twins Take Two K’s On Same Day


Twins Daily Contributor

The Minnesota Twins closed out a short two-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. Despite poor weather conditions the night before and a game delayed into the wee hours of the morning, the afternoon tilt brought a pair of massive misses for Minnesota. Kirilloff and Kershaw were the narratives of the day.

Krillioff Knocks Self from Lineup
When Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli published his first lineup of the day, Alex Kirilloff was in it, starting in left field. That’s notable as he is a left-handed batter and was set to face off against first-ballot Hall of Famer lefty Clayton Kershaw. However, the bad news dropped not more than an hour after making that decision.
 
The Twins up-and-coming star was headed back to the Injured List. No, this wasn’t for the knee injury that held him out of a Spring Training game, but instead, for the same wrist injury, he dealt with a season ago. That is the wrist he underwent surgery for in July, missed the rest of the season, and didn’t resume baseball activities until October.

Immediately I thought of a quote that The Athletic’s Dan Hayes shared back in March. Kirilloff said, “I ramped up to where I was ready to hit a velocity machine, and it just didn’t feel right, so we shut it down for a month in November and then started ramping up in December again. That second time around, it felt better.” The comment caused some pause at the time as it wasn’t great that issues were still present. I tried to tuck it into the back of my mind, but it clearly reared its head again today.
 
Then there’s the frustration of what Kirilloff is really dealing with. Today, MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park tweeted that Kirilloff shared he’s never swung pain-free since the injury. That is a substantial problem, both for the player and the Twins.

A season ago, Kirilloff was a prospect looking to establish himself as a big-league ballplayer. Up until his May 3 wrist sprain, he owned a .799 OPS, and it was backed by a seven-game stretch in which he slashed .321/.333/.857. After a cortisone shot and some rehab, Kirilloff returned to play another 47 games but posted just a .703 OPS with virtually non-existent power. At that point, combined with the Twins postseason prognosis, surgery was deemed favorable.
 
Coming into this season, Kirilloff didn’t have anything guaranteed, but the left-field role was his for the taking. This is a Minnesota team looking at a postseason berth, and they were going to count on the former first-round pick to bolster the lineup in a big way. That was until it was discovered, a week into the season, that his wrist hadn’t been pain-free.

It’s hard to fault an athlete for wanting to compete, but the 1-for-17 start indicated more than just tough luck. Being put in the lineup even on the day he was sent to the Injured List suggests this was news to everyone but the outfielder. Who knows what could have been done differently, how the roster could’ve been shaped, or how his health could’ve been prioritized before this point, but now the Twins are stuck in a waiting game that is the result of an ineffective surgery and a blindside.
 
Kershaw Flirts With Perfection
 
Watching the game from different spaces within Target Field, it was clear Minnesota had no answer for the Dodgers star southpaw today. Kershaw cruised through each inning with ease, never facing a deep count and with no real contact that threatened the production of a base runner. As the innings drew on and the strikeouts increased, the only thing hot at the ballpark was the future Hall of Famer.

After completing his 7th inning of work, on just 80 pitches, Kershaw had thirteen strikeouts and had allowed zero baserunners. When he entered the dugout, manager Dave Roberts greeted him. They high-fived, and it seemed to signify that his day was done. Blake Treinen had been warming in the bullpen, and the Los Angeles manager seemed ready to lift his star six outs from a perfect game.
 
Following the conclusion, Kershaw shared that “it was the right move…it was time.” That’s the response of a veteran not looking to undo his manager's decision, but it’s also the correct one. 
 
While it would’ve been amazing to see the legendary arm turn in baseball’s 24th perfect game, there are no guarantees it would happen. More than playing the “what if” game, though, there’s the levity of the situation. Last year Kershaw dealt with an injury down the stretch, and in the Postseason, for a Dodgers team looking at success solely through the lens of a World Series ring. He then didn’t ramp up his throwing program until January, later than usual, providing his body time to heal. Throw in a lockout-shortened Spring Training, and you have an arm that has yet to be stretched beyond 60-70 pitches.

For fans, this was a 36-degree game in April. For the Dodgers (and hopefully the Twins), this was a game during the first week of a marathon to the World Series. Perfection certainly would’ve been amazing, and it would’ve kept me at the park for another six outs despite the 6-0 score. Still, there’s also the likely possibility the ramifications would’ve been felt far longer than a magical day in April.
 
Wednesday was dominated by two K’s and maybe three if you attribute a third to Kershaw’s strikeout tally. Both were detrimental for the Twins, and only one of the two situations played out well. Better days ahead.


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Kirilloff is a super gut punch. OF was clearly the position of need that received the least attention in the offseason. I get that; SS and SP were glaring holes, and there were some good in-house prospects led by Kirilloff and Larnach.

But Larnach hasn't made the step beyond AAA (and hasn't even been hitting there so far, though it's early), and now Kirilloff is out and very possibly for the year. Maybe Larnach is struck by lightning and takes off (though Contreras is probably a better bet), or a Gordon comes out of nowhere.

But most likely the Twins will need to find a free agent or trade to put a real MLB bat in LF. They have enough questions about catching offense that they can't continue to carry low-pop .200 hitters in both corner OF positions.

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Are the wheels coming off already?  They are 2-4 and in last place.  Sound familiar?  4 games coming in Boston.  It's too early to panic right?  Starting pitching so far has been decent.  Hitting has been poor.  Then our great manager totally mismanages the lineup and bullpen.  Why was Correa not playing?  It was his scheduled day off.  My good ness, one week in and the 35 million player needs a day off.  They have a day off already Thursday.  Then we blame losses, at least in part on the weather.  My god the weather didn't effect the Dodgers?  They seemed to handle it ok.  What's wrong with just admitting they are better.  Because they are.  They are loaded. It's hard to imagine how or why they ever lose.  Kirilloff situation is definitely problematic.  The recurring injury may derail his career.  The fact that he didn't keep the Twins informed about his playing through pain is inexcusable.  Hope Larnach can handle it.

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Wow, no rays of sunshine to be found anywhere right now.  What is confusing to me is why in the world Kirilloff's wrist was not reexamined when he was shut down last fall, and if he has never been able to swing pain free since the original injury, why is it now only being addressed once the season has started?  If this is a chronic problem, his career is about to take a much different path.

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41 minutes ago, RJA said:

Wow, no rays of sunshine to be found anywhere right now.  What is confusing to me is why in the world Kirilloff's wrist was not reexamined when he was shut down last fall, and if he has never been able to swing pain free since the original injury, why is it now only being addressed once the season has started?  If this is a chronic problem, his career is about to take a much different path.

At least the Twins eventually got a hit. One better than the Saints (who could potentially be called up to improve the offense?).

Seriously, one has to question now whether Kirilloff will ever be a major-league player.

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I wrote before the season started that the Twins were betting on Jeffers and Kirilloff to take the step of being full-time regulars. While Jeffers has looked okay in the early going, Kirilloff has not and now we know why. A few days ago I was thinking that the Twins were doing very well on the injury front and then on consecutive days Alcala and Kirilloff go down and both appear to be season-threatening injuries. Ouch.

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Minor quibble, but I didn't really get trying to push for 4 innings out of Rodriguez when the game was still technically within reach, with 9 other guys in the bullpen and an off day today.

I had this thought before he gave up the home runs.  He'd managed to dance out of trouble in his first time through the order, but it seemed dangerous to give too many of the good Dodgers' hitters a second look at him.

Anyway, it actually is way too early to be getting all doom and gloom.  They have a somewhat tough opening set of series, but their playoff chances will rest largely on how they do against their division opponents.  Yeah, there definitely is some weakness in the pitching staff, but there are exciting young guys to watch as well. 

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SS Different year (You all know what SS means). Why is it this team can never be managed and built properly? Its been over a decade since it has been. Im sorry but 2019 is looking more and more like an aberration and 2020 and 2021 looking more like the norm. I had the team pegged as .500 material before seasons start. Now I have them running just like they did last season. 74ish wins. I want off Roccos wild ride. 

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1 hour ago, RJA said:

Wow, no rays of sunshine to be found anywhere right now.  What is confusing to me is why in the world Kirilloff's wrist was not reexamined when he was shut down last fall, and if he has never been able to swing pain free since the original injury, why is it now only being addressed once the season has started?  If this is a chronic problem, his career is about to take a much different path.

This is my problem, and obviously I'm not connected enough to ask the right people, but he was IN THE LINEUP yesterday. To me that suggests no one knew the extent to which he was laboring. If that's the case, why is Alex trying to play through that? Why was no one informed? He shut it down during the lockout based on the timeline, and the unfortunate thing there is the club medical staff couldn't interact with him.

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7 minutes ago, 2wins87 said:

Minor quibble, but I didn't really get trying to push for 4 innings out of Rodriguez when the game was still technically within reach, with 9 other guys in the bullpen and an off day today.

I had this thought before he gave up the home runs.  He'd managed to dance out of trouble in his first time through the order, but it seemed dangerous to give too many of the good Dodgers' hitters a second look at him.

Anyway, it actually is way too early to be getting all doom and gloom.  They have a somewhat tough opening set of series, but their playoff chances will rest largely on how they do against their division opponents.  Yeah, there definitely is some weakness in the pitching staff, but there are exciting young guys to watch as well. 

You aren't wrong on any front. No doom and gloom on the season. The Dodgers are always going to be tough. Even if Kershaw threw a perfecto, it's one game, who cares.

I too thought Rodriguez did his job dancing through three; pushing for the next inning was odd.

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7 minutes ago, KFEY93 said:

SS Different year (You all know what SS means). Why is it this team can never be managed and built properly? Its been over a decade since it has been. Im sorry but 2019 is looking more and more like an aberration and 2020 and 2021 looking more like the norm. I had the team pegged as .500 material before seasons start. Now I have them running just like they did last season. 74ish wins. I want off Roccos wild ride. 

I'm not sure this is fair 6 games in. On the Kirilloff front, I can't imagine Rocco is putting him in the lineup if he knew the severity of the issue. It seems as though Alex was trying to play through this. On the record front, they dropped two games to a World Series favorite. Not a huge deal.

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13 minutes ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

This is my problem, and obviously I'm not connected enough to ask the right people, but he was IN THE LINEUP yesterday. To me that suggests no one knew the extent to which he was laboring. If that's the case, why is Alex trying to play through that? Why was no one informed? He shut it down during the lockout based on the timeline, and the unfortunate thing there is the club medical staff couldn't interact with him.

Absolutely agree this is confusing.  If it was clear last fall he had to be shut down, the Twins knew he was still having issues before the lockout.  He should have been rechecked at that time.  And, if he was still having pain through the winter, why didn't he bring this up as soon as the lockout was over, and why didn't the Twins talk to him and send him back to doc at that time?  I just don't get it, but as you suggest, we are not on the inside so maybe there are things we don't know.  

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This is a recurring issue. While we see more of it with the home team, I think all teams deal with it to some extent. When do you play through some pain or discomfort and when do you go to the training staff and say "I can't go"? I don't think the Twins have all the answers and I don't think anybody really does. 

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It seems inconceivable to me, if Kirilloff was having wrist issues, that Twins management could watch him through a month of spring training...thousands of swings...and just now learn his wrist wasn't fully healed. Have him IN THE ORIGINAL LINEUP THE DAY HE HITS THE IL.

 

That's either BS, or we have issues with the major league coaching staff. A hitting coach that can watch a hitter in the cage and in games for over a month and not notice...yeesh.

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2 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

On the record front, they dropped two games to a World Series favorite.

Didn't look like two WS teams though - not even a WS team vs a playoff hopeful.  This was Dodgers against Pirates territory.

And Kershaw doesn't throw perfectos every game - by some measure this might be his best game since 2016, and wouldn't you know it, it came against us. 

It's only two games, but (like in the season opener) we have good reason to reevaluate whether this is actually a strong offense at all.  The league is full of future Hall of Famers and it can't be the excuse every time.

When do our guys start imposing their will on other teams' good players for a change?

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Kirilloff issue is a huge deal.  The fact that he had surgery and has never had pain free swing is huge.  This may end his career, or greatly reduce what he may have been.  Prior to his injury last year, he made great contact and hit the ball very hard.  Since, it has just not had the same sound.  Even if he thinks he can play through the pain, it clearly affects him.  The fact that surgery did not fix it is worrisome.  

I had huge hopes for Kirilloff, but now I do not expect he will do much.  Maybe he can get a new surgery that does the job, but he will be on the shelf again for months.  I do not see how waiting will do any good if he spent all off-season feeling pain but did not address it. I think this is a huge loss and I do not expect him to play, at least not at a high level, the rest of this season if not his career.  

I know some will say I am overblowing this, but he needs to have pain free swings in his wrist to be productive. Having a full year of this without pain free swings even after surgery means it is unlikely he ever will. 

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6 hours ago, 2wins87 said:

Minor quibble, but I didn't really get trying to push for 4 innings out of Rodriguez when the game was still technically within reach, with 9 other guys in the bullpen and an off day today.

I had this thought before he gave up the home runs.  He'd managed to dance out of trouble in his first time through the order, but it seemed dangerous to give too many of the good Dodgers' hitters a second look at him.

Anyway, it actually is way too early to be getting all doom and gloom.  They have a somewhat tough opening set of series, but their playoff chances will rest largely on how they do against their division opponents.  Yeah, there definitely is some weakness in the pitching staff, but there are exciting young guys to watch as well. 

I agree with you on all points.  I felt that putting Rodriguez out for the fourth inning was pushing it and maybe even setting him up (or somehow sparing the relievers who you expected to keep around the rest of the season.  But there is no game today, weird.

And, just as recently as last year, we were reminded of how little connection there is between the first week of the season and how a team actually plays the year out.

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Rodriguez was not set up to pitch more than 3 innings and the full assortment of relief pitchers dictates a little action for a couple of others eager to pitch in the beautiful April weather; that was brutal leaving him go past his limit.

No idea how the staff doesn't notice a difference in swings from Kirilloff or why the communication was non-existent.

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22 hours ago, Ted Schwerzler said:

I'm not sure this is fair 6 games in. On the Kirilloff front, I can't imagine Rocco is putting him in the lineup if he knew the severity of the issue. It seems as though Alex was trying to play through this. On the record front, they dropped two games to a World Series favorite. Not a huge deal.

Im just not a fan of Rocco in general. I voiced that pretty strongly at the end of 2019. That team wins 100 games regardless of who is managing. I dont like his lack of fire, lax attitude and I really dont like that he encourages other players to have that attitude as well. Im not saying he needs to be gardy out there kickin dirt and yelling every other game but, too many rest days, too many "nap areas". What winning franchise has nap zones and nap times? Like come on, get real. But you're right its too early. I called the team dead by first week of May last season and I was right. Lets see how they finish April. 

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22 hours ago, KFEY93 said:

SS Different year (You all know what SS means). Why is it this team can never be managed and built properly? Its been over a decade since it has been. Im sorry but 2019 is looking more and more like an aberration and 2020 and 2021 looking more like the norm. I had the team pegged as .500 material before seasons start. Now I have them running just like they did last season. 74ish wins. I want off Roccos wild ride. 

2020 and 2021 the norm?   2020?    Probably shouldn't use a season where they win 60% of their games and win the division to make your case.  If this opens up more at bats for Arraez it could be a good thing.

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Twins have a pretty long history of guys playing injured to the detriment of the team.    That always irritates me.   However, when  fans have ripped super stars like Morneau and Mauer for not playing when they are less than 100% its kind of hard to blame the players that try to play through their pain while also trying to get major league checks.

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Read update on Krillioff showed no new injury.  That is very concerning to me that this will be a long term injury he will need to learn how to play through or never be what he could be.  

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