As part of a series of roster moves before the start of a three-game series in Cleveland on Friday, the Twins called up first baseman/corner fielder Alex Kirilloff from Triple-A St. Paul and the optional corner fielder Trevor Larnach at St. Paul, trading one left-handed hitter for another.
They also placed left-hander Caleb Thielbar on the 15-day injured list with a strained right oblique muscle, moved right-hander Tyler Mahle to the 60-day injured list as he rehabilitates a strained elbow and called up right-hander Derek Rodríguez de St. Paul.
As a trade, Kirilloff’s call is actually tied to Thielbar passing on the IL, which explains the seemingly odd timing of this move. Without replacing an injured player on the roster, Kirilloff was ineligible to be recalled from the minors until 10 days after being chosen, which would have been May 10.
Larnach made the opening day roster because Kirilloff was not ready to start the season with the Twins, needing more time to recover from his second straight wrist surgery in August. Kirilloff has been in St. Paul since April 18, first in rehab and then just as a Triple-A player, gradually increasing his playing time as the Twins watched his right wrist.
Kirilloff hit .316/.435/.605 with three home runs in 10 games for St. Paul this time around, taking his career Triple-A line to .354/.459/.663 with 15 home runs in 47 games. He’s obviously way too good for Triple A, but that only matters if the former world top-25 prospect is healthy and can stay healthy, which has been difficult for the past two years. Now the Twins will find out again.
Larnach got off to a good start coming out of spring training, going 7-for-16 (.438) with one home run and five RBIs in the Twins’ first four games, but since then has beaten only .182 with 39 strikeouts in 27 games. That included going 0 for 9 with eight strikeouts in the just-ended three-game series against the White Sox, after which the Twins decided it was time for a change.
Ideally, the Twins would like to have Kirilloff and Larnach together in the same formation. While that was only possible from a roster perspective at the moment, finding consistent batsmen for the two former first-round picks would have been difficult with fellow left-handed hitters Joey Gallo and Max Kepler also playing regularly and Byron Buxton thriving. as the designated full-hitter by time.
Thielbar’s oblique injury leaves a big hole in the Twins’ bullpen, where rookie Jovani Moran is now the only southpaw. Thielbar appeared in 11 of the first 32 games, pitching 10 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 10-to-2 strikeout ratio in a setup role with matchups against lefties and righties.
Moran will likely see higher-leverage work in Thielbar’s absence, but the Twins also plan to turn to right-handers Brock Stewart and Emilio Pagán as secondary setup men behind frontline relievers Jhoan Duran. , Jorge Lopez and Griffin Jax. Thielbar has a combined 3.11 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 153 total innings since beginning his second stint with the Twins in 2020.
Rodríguez, a 30-year-old journeyman and son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Ivan Rodríguez, was originally drafted by the Twins in 2011, as an outfielder. He converted to the mound in 2014 and pitched in the majors for the Giants and Rockies before returning to the Twins last year on a minor league contract.
Rodríguez has a 4.24 ERA in 229 career MLB innings and will provide a relief option after the Twins used five relievers in a 12-inning win over the White Sox on Thursday. His final stint in the majors may be short-lived.
Mahle is out for at least four weeks and will need a rehab assignment each time he’s cleared to pitch again, so moving him to the 60-day injured list doesn’t change his schedule. It was purely a procedural decision necessary to open up a 40-man berth for Rodríguez. Mahle will be eligible to return from a right arm posterior impingement and pronator flexor strain in early July.
(Photo by Alex Kirilloff: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)