Monday, May 20, 2024

Alex Kirilloff slump raises questions about his health

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It’s been a dreadful couple of weeks for the Twins’ Alex Kirilloff, who entered Wednesday night’s game in a 2-for-30 (.067) slump in his previous 12 games. Even more disturbing, Wednesday marked exactly six weeks since his one and only multi-hit game of the 2024 season, a 4-for-4 performance in Milwaukee.

Kirilloff has gone through such droughts before, like his .172 April and May 2022, or a .194 stretch through 18 games last June. But those downturns generally have corresponded with physical ailments, a wrist injury two years ago and a shoulder problem last year, each requiring surgery to fix.

That history has raised speculation about Kirilloff’s current health: Is there a physical reason for his slump?

“Yeah, most of the time you just look at it as, maybe he’s dealing with something,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But from everything that he’s said, everything the medical staff has said, there’s no indication of that. This is more of just the typical up-and-down that a player goes through.”

Well, maybe not typical, at least not for Kirilloff. Even with the injuries, he’s a career .314 hitter against fastballs. But that has plummeted to just .250 this season, and it’s noticeable, Baldelli said.

“I know that when he’s getting fastballs in the middle of the zone, he’s not hitting them,” the manager said. “When he gets a fastball in the middle of the zone, he normally hits it. He hits it on a line somewhere. So re-finding just that simple swing that he’s always had and always worked with is what he’s after.”

Kepler’s streak ends

Max Kepler‘s 14-game hitting streak ended quietly Tuesday night, one game short of becoming the longest streak by a Twin in seven years.

He never had much of a chance of adding to it, though; Kepler, 20-for-48 (.417) since the streak began April 27, didn’t enter the game until the seventh inning as a pinch hitter for Austin Martin, and he struck out in his only at-bat.

But what’s remarkable about those 14 games is the fact that Kepler also didn’t start two of them, yet he still got a late-inning hit. He singled in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of the Twins’ win in Chicago on April 29, then added another run-scoring single as a pinch hitter for Jose Miranda on Friday in Toronto.

“He’s been really consistent in squaring balls up, regardless of the situation. He has been pinch hitting, doing a great job with that, being prepared when he comes in the game,” Baldelli said. “I didn’t even know there was a hitting streak, to be very honest. Even though he didn’t get a hit yesterday, he’s right in the middle of a period of time where he’s just doing a great job.”

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