The Twins activated Alex Kirilloff from the 10-day injured list Friday, and the first baseman marked his return by going 1-for-4 in Minnesota’s 5-2 victory over the Mets. In the corresponding move, the Twins placed Joey Gallo on the 10-day IL due to a left foot contusion, with Gallo’s placement retroactive to September 6.
Kirilloff was playing in his first MLB game since July 29, as a right shoulder strain forced the former top prospect to the sidelines. Since recovery from wrist surgery already delayed Kirilloff’s season debut until May 6, he has played in only 70 games this season, though Kirilloff has hit a solid .270/.355/.439 over 262 plate appearances. A hefty .353 BABIP has certainly aided that production, but it still represents a very nice step forward for Kirilloff after wrist problems hampered his first two seasons in the majors.
Now back on the active roster, Kirilloff figures to resume his role as Minnesota’s primary first baseman, with Donovan Solano stepping in to spell Kirilloff against left-handed pitching. Gallo was also a significant part of the first base mix, but he’ll now miss some time after fouling a ball off his foot, manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Bobby Nightengale of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).
Signed to a one-year, $11MM free agent contract last winter, Gallo has to some extent rebounded from his rough 2022 season, as his .177/.301/.440 slash line and 21 homers in 332 PA does translate to an above-average 103 wRC+. However, most of Gallo’s production came in April, and he has been in a pronounced slump for the rest of the season. Gallo’s ability to play first base and all three outfield positions has made him a useful asset for a Minnesota team that has been hit with multiple injuries over the course of 2023, but it remains to be seen if Gallo will be part of a postseason roster, should the Twins hold on to win the AL Central.
Byron Buxton’s status is also an x-factor at this point, as the former All-Star hasn’t played since appearing in a minor league rehab game on September 1. Buxton was playing in his first game as an outfielder in over a year, as recurring knee problems resulted in arthroscopic surgery late in the 2022 season, and the Twins’ decision to use Buxton exclusively as a designated hitter this season. With Buxton currently on the IL due to a hamstring injury, the Twins were trying to ease Buxton back into fielding duty, only to be set back by this latest case of patella tendinitis.
Baldelli didn’t have any new update on when Buxton might be able to play again, at either the minor league or MLB levels. There’s something of a holding pattern situation until Buxton is healthy, but as Baldelli noted, “that doesn’t mean he’s not going to play for us. We’re anticipating him working his way back and taking the field for us.”
In other Twins injury news, Michael A. Taylor and Nick Gordon each took part in a live batting practice session against Brock Stewart, as all three players continue to make some progress in their rehab work. Gordon still isn’t expected back until closer to the end of the regular season, but Taylor might be back in relatively short order, after being placed on the IL last Sunday due to a right hamstring strain.
In addition to the live BP session, Taylor also said he did some baserunning work on Friday. Taylor has hit a career-high 20 homers and has been one of baseball’s best defensive center fielders, putting him in line for his second career Gold Glove and giving Minnesota some much-needed relief up the middle with Buxton relegated to DH work.
Stewart last pitched in the majors in 2019 before resurfacing with the Twins this year, and he returned in grand fashion by posting an 0.70 ERA over 25 2/3 relief innings. Unfortunately, Stewart’s season was cut short by elbow soreness in late June, which has now led to a lengthy stint on the 60-day injured list. Stewart is likely to need some minor league rehab work given the longer layoff, but he should be able to get back before the regular season is over.