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  • Will Alex Kirilloff Ever Truly Recover?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Last season, the Minnesota Twins watched as promising young slugger Alex Kirilloff had his power sapped due to a nagging wrist issue. Unfortunately, it never corrected itself and he underwent season-ending surgery. After a slow start again this year, he was jettisoned to Triple-A. After working through it, a fresh start was earned, but now we’re again back in the same place.

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    For now, the Twins have yet to place Alex Kirilloff on the injured list, but Rocco Baldelli indicated he would be re-evaluated prior to Minnesota facing the Detroit Tigers, and that the pain had gotten to the point where Kirilloff could again not swing a bat.

    When he was demoted to Triple-A earlier this season, Kirilloff owned a paltry .172/.226/.172 slash line. It was just a 10-game sample size, but he had zero extra-base hits and a 12/1 K/BB. By any statistical measure, it was a nightmare start. Considering last season's surgery was supposed to do the trick, it’s becoming increasingly worrisome that despite a recent check-in to suggest things were physically fine, he’s unable to perform to the fullest extent.

    Back in April, it was reported that Kirilloff had shut down his offseason training program due to pain, but was good to go to start Spring Training in March. Prior to playing for the Saints, Kirilloff received a cortisone shot in mid-April. That’s been largely a route for pain management rather than actually fixing the issue, so it always remained curious as to when this problem could again flare up.

    Returning to the Twins in mid-June, Kirilloff played 13 games for Minnesota throughout the month and posted a .790 OPS. The batting average was there, but he generated just six extra-base hits including only a single home run. The month of July went even worse, unfortunately. A .254/.303/.366 slash line suggested that the ability to drive the baseball was again all but gone. Kirilloff had just four extra-base hits in 21 games last month, split between doubles and homers.

    There does seem to be some understanding of his limitations while Kirilloff continues to utilize the whole field when facing opposing pitchers. If his wrist doesn’t allow for consistent forearm strength against velocity, utilizing the opposite field makes a ton of sense. He hasn’t been entirely pull happy since his return, and whether by design or happenstance, that’s a plan that can work.

    The problem for both Kirilloff and Minnesota is that this outcome saps production and so much of the value in his game as a whole. He’s not a defensive stalwart, even at first base where he should find a home, and being a singles hitter is not who he strives to be. Kirilloff has basically never been able to flash the power potential he provides due to lacking health from the moment he’s arrived in Minnesota.

    Where both parties go from here remains to be seen. During the season Minnesota’s goal was certainly to have the slugger available to him. He’s also been told through additional imaging that things remain status quo. There’s no reason to cut his hand open for the sake of doing so, but any number of new opinions must be sought in order to find the root issue. Give it to Kirilloff for attempting to play through the problem and seeking a better outcome. Both sides can try to limp this thing through the Postseason in hopes of finding whatever value there is to be had, but this isn’t something that can go on forever.

    For now, Minnesota has virtually never seen a fully healthy Alex Kirilloff at the Major League level, and the more this cycle goes on one has to wonder if we ever will.

     

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    It is really really difficult to build strength in a wrist.  He may never attain the kind of stardom the team anticipated when he was drafted.  At this point they might be better off trading him especially if they can get a good return.

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    8 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    Got it. Act of God. Nobody has responsibility for multi-million dollar assets. Sometimes things just don't work. What can you do?Somehow, I just don't think that perspective flies in big business.

     

    AK isn’t a machine that can be taken down for PMs and just “fixed”. He’s a human being. Medical science has advanced in ways that I don’t understand, but humanity’s understanding of the human body isn’t exhaustive. 40% of doctors and surgeons get sued for medical malpractice at some point in their careers.

    when my team develops capital projects for New Product Introduction, the machines are typically not built “bullet proof” as much as we build them with redundancy. Fixing a machine when it goes down takes critical time, so asset functionality are qualified in duplicity. Even machines that can be “fixed” need to have a plan B.

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    This wrist is a complex and delicate joint. As mentioned in a string early this year or last, his wrist is definitely a threat to his entire career. 

    Scar tissue sporadically breaking up and causing acute inflammation and pain would be the best explanation because that should become less frequent and severe over time.

    Fingers crossed but worried :(

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    18 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    I'm not saying the Twins always have to get it right, but they've got a multi-million dollar asset and they've failed to diagnose the problem with it. It doesn't really matter who's fault it is specifically, but it's basically either Alex Kirilloff's or the organization's, isn't it?

    To say that someone has to be at fault is overly simplistic. Some medical problems cannot be easily diagnosed or solved. Too many arm chair doctors here trying to come up with a way to assign blame.  Unless someone is a physician with Kiriloff’s detailed medical records and orthopedic or related experience it’s just blowing smoke.

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    This is just too damn bad for Alex. He had wrist issues in the minors. Growing up the son of a hitting coach the guy has swing the bat millions of times. Hopefully this isn't a cronic issue wreaking his career. With the money involved here, because sadly in the US healthcare is gonna cost ya, I'm sure he'll get multiple opinions. I had a bad high ankle sprain once and it mostly healed in a few months. It did not feel right for a year. Here's hoping he can get right by next year. 

    Blame game? I'll pass. 

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    22 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    I wish him luck. But I'm getting nervous about his health. The Kubel comparison is very apt. 

    If Kirilloff finishes his career with the same numbers as Jason Kublel, I'd consider that a huge accomplishment. 

    Let's hope AK gets healthy or his numbers will end up looking similar to those of Chris Parmalee's career. 

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    I am greatly concerned with his wrist, being that our only reports are that no additional surgery will be helpful.  I was hopeful when he came back and was hitting the ball hard he had learned to play through it, but looks like might be something to haunt him rest of career. 

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    I don't have any first hand medical experience, but I am married to one with nearly two decades of practitioner experience.

    It is not unusual for medical practitioners, once inside, to find issues that were not apparent thru any imaging. Imaging is very good, but not perfect.

    Now, the wrist, from what I understand, is actually one area where imaging clarity is highest, but even there, it is not perfect.

    It really sounds like something is still causing problems and it is likely fixable, perhaps a bone is not twisting correctly in a joint with certain movements, causing rubbing with another bone, something like that. It may be undetectable unless clearly imaged at the exact moment in his swing that he feels it, which is impossible with even the most advanced tech available that I know of.

    If it does not improve, Kirilloff really has nothing to lose by having exploratory surgery. His career is over unless it can be "permanently" improved.

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    The wrist is totally vital to a ballplayer. Swinging a bat against 100mph pitches requires strong wrists. (I think of Hank Aaron--hitting all those HR's with those strong wrists always comes to mind)

    Kirilloff, like Buxton, just seems to be fragile where it counts. Alex may never be right again. And Buxton will never have an injury free season apparently.  He is always hurt and it is slowly robbing him of all his tools. His body just keeps betraying him. It can't compensate for the way he needs to play. Looking more like Alex probably needs to shut it down and do what is needed to try and salvage his career for 2023.

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    Maybe give him a cortisone shot before 30 games with the Twins instead of before 30 games with the Saints?

    I’m an AK skeptic. Walk rates as low as his are extremely problematic. And it’s a carry-over issue from the minors. It’s not like his K rate is going to be extraordinarily low…and that means he has to have an elite BABIP or elite SLG (or elite BABiP/SLG combo) to be good. He pulled that off in the minors…including this year in St. Paul with his wrist. Big ask in the majors.

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