Welcome to the big leagues, Alex Kirilloff.
The Twins couldn’t have picked a game with more pressure to hire their No. 2 prospect. But one day when the Twins were wiped out of the American League Wild Card Series, Kirilloff turned out to be one of their bright spots. Kirilloff, 22, became the first Twin ever to make his MLB-debut in the postseason.
Kirilloff, the Draft pick in the first round of Twins in 2016, was picked 15th overall and was welcomed into the first inning when he stepped onto the board with the bases loaded.
While he didn’t repent during that at bat and flew away to end a possible rally, Kirilloff delivered his first hit in his next uphill with a solid single to the right at 105.9 miles per hour after the bat. He followed that up with a nice sliding catch in the right field later in the game.
That was the highlight of my day, said outfielder Max Kepler. I’m very proud of him that he has to do that in that situation, in the playoffs, to come in, never played a big league game in your career and to do what he did, play defensively, a knock and then caught a line drive, which I was amazed, he played like a vet. We needed everything he contributed. ”
Kirilloff had trained at the Twins’ alternate location in St. Paul this season. He had never appeared in a game over Double-A before Wednesday. Kirilloff, who started Wednesday because centerfielder Byron Buxton was unavailable, is common in Twins’ future plans.
And Wednesday was just the beginning of that.
We have a lot of faith in him, said manager Rocco Baldelli before the game. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t value Alex Kirilloffs’ skill, both as a player and as a man, as a person. He is a very talented player. He has a huge attacking ceiling. He can really swing the bat. He has power for all fields.
Buxton couldn’t start Wednesday’s loss to the Astros, and Baldelli was vague as to why before the game, simply saying he wasn’t at 100 percent.
Buxton made his appearance late in the game, with pinch running for Nelson Cruz in the eighth after the designated hitter walked. Buxton was picked off later in the inning to end the threat to the Twins.
Buxton was hit by a pitch in the helmet on Friday and suffered a minor concussion, but he played in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, going 1-for-4 in the loss of Twins. Baldelli would not specify whether Buxton’s absence was due to this. The Twins were also without a batter Josh Donaldson, another major contributor, in the series.
It’s hard to miss him anywhere in the ball game. He makes a huge difference, and yesterday dragged himself through a ton because he wasn’t in his best shape, so I’m proud of him, Kepler said of Buxton. What he went through yesterday and today, I feel a lot for him, and I hope he gets better and comes back stronger because he’s a great player. ”
CRUZ HOPES TO BE BACK
Cruz has been the heart of the Gemini’s soul for the past two seasons. The 40-year old designated hitter, who rode on both teams in the two games against the Astros, will be a free agent after the season has ended.
While his future in Minnesota is now in flux, Cruz has expressed hopes that he could return and did so again after Wednesday’s loss. Cruz finished the regular season with .303 with a .397 on-base percentage and .595 slugging percentage with 16 home runs in 53 games.
I must be grateful to the whole family, the entire organization has treated me extremely well. I couldn’t be happier, top to bottom, first class. Security, the ground crew guys, the clubs, the coaches, everyone in the Twins organization, Cruz said. It’s been a great run. We were back-to-back Central champions, so no one can take that away from us. Hopefully I will be back next year.
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