Twins send ailing slugger Alex Kirilloff back to St. Paul

Alex Kirilloff said Friday he’s in a transition period, learning to swing through — well, exactly what isn’t quite clear — after having surgery last July that was intended to repair his right wrist.

On Saturday, the Twins optioned the outfielder / first baseman to Triple-A St. Paul so he can play every day and get the at-bats the team thinks he needs to adjust to his condition.

“He wasn’t going to be playing every day. He probably would have been in a rotation of some kind,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But I don’t think the best thing for him is to be in a rotation right now.”

Kirilloff was optioned to make room on the active roster for left-hander Devin Smeltzer, who was set to start against Cleveland on Saturday night.

Articulating exactly what’s bothering him has been difficult for Kirilloff, the Twins’ first-round pick in the 2016 amateur draft, although he knows it is caused — or at least was caused — by the ulnar bone in his right arm rubbing against a bone in his wrist. Last July, he had season-ending surgery to fix the problem, but it doesn’t seem to have taken, despite the Twins insisting he’s healthy.

Kirilloff was given a cortisone shot on April 14 and placed on the 10-day injured list before playing a short rehab assignment in St. Paul. After being activated on May 7, he hit .333 for the Twins but is still looking for his first extra-base hit.

“Medically, he’s completely clear — from the doctor’s side, from the specialist he would go see, from our medical team, and from his point of view, too,” Baldelli said. “And he’s figuring out, I think, his new reality after coming back from the procedure and everything, just exactly what everything is going to feel like, and it probably does feel a little different now.”

Asked on Friday if that means adjusting to the reality of pain or discomfort in his wrist, Kirilloff said, “I hope it’s not going to be like that, but since (the surgery), there’s a lot of swings where I feel it.

“It’s one of those things where I think guys have played through it before. Obviously, I had the procedure done, so I’m optimistic that the discomfort and adjusting to that will, one, I’ll be able to handle it and, two, it will kind of subside.”

60-DAY FOR SANO

Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (22) celebrates with teammates after he hit a single against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis. There was an error on the play, and the Twins scored two runs, winning 5-4. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

To make room on the 40-man roster for Smeltzer, the Twins placed Miguel Sano on the 60-day injured list. The first baseman injured his knee after his walk-off single against the Detroit Tigers on April 26, and on May 5 had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

“His timeline, even originally I think, was going to be close to that — especially the getting back (part),” Baldelli said. “He’s going to need (rehab) at-bats, as well, when he’s completely healthy.”

With Sano on the IL and Kirilloff in St. Paul, the Twins will mostly rotate Luis Arraez and rookie Jose Miranda at first, Baldelli said, adding that veteran catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela could play first in a pinch.

“We don’t have the most experienced bunch to go play first base, but that happens,” the manager said.

MORE THAN A FEELING

Minnesota Twins pitcher Devin Smeltzer (31) delivers in the first inning during a spring training baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Charlotte Sports Park Saturday April 2, 2022, in Port Charlotte, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Smeltzer became the 41st player to log a game with the Twins this season, and a lot of those players have found themselves major league teammates with former teammates in Minnesota’s minor league system.

Seven players have made their major league debuts this season, including former first overall draft pick Royce Lewis, who hit a grand slam for his first major league home run in Friday’s 12-8 victory over Cleveland.

A few of the other rookies could feel it coming when the shortstop stepped into the box with two out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

“We were saying, ‘You know, he’s going to hit a home run right here, man,’ ” said outfielder Mark Contreras, who started the season in St. Paul with Lewis and Miranda. “It was just felt among us, like, ‘He’s going to do it right here.’ And for him to do it, that’s truly special. That’s just the beginning for him. He’s going to play this game for a long time.”

Miranda made his debut last Thursday against the Houston Astros and hit a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat, driving in former minor league teammate Gilberto Celestino.

BRIEFLY

Right-hander Bailey Ober, on the IL since April 30 with a groin strain, was scheduled to pitch for the Saints on Saturday in Columbus. If it goes well, the Twins expect him to return during a road trip through Oakland and Kansas City. … Center fielder Byron Buxton, managing knee and hip issues, was given a day off Saturday. … David West, acquired with Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani in the 1989 trade that sent Frank Viola to the Mets, passed away Saturday after fighting brain cancer. He pitched in World Series for the Twins (1991) and Phillies (1993).

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