Andrelton Simmons suggested tickling as a way to rouse a smile from stone-faced Alex Kirilloff.
But even that extreme measure seems destined to fail, considering even the rookie's first two career home runs Friday weren't enough to elicit a showing of joy.
"No one knows how to really get to him or to make him laugh or smile yet," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I think our infielders are coming up with ideas."
Nelson Cruz ended up coming up with a solution, as the veteran team leader demanded Kirilloff smile after his first homer that helped the Twins to a 9-1 victory over the AL Central Division-leading Kansas City Royals.
"He just was telling me to lighten up," Kirilloff said, "and smile for the camera."
With a roster loaded with outfielders and infielder Miguel Sano readying to rejoin the team from the injured list, Kirilloff had plenty of motivation to keep his level head and perform Friday in front of another sellout Target Field crowd of 9,982.
The Twins' top prospect was a bit of a surprising absence from the Twins' Opening Day roster, which team president of baseball operations Derek Falvey attributed to shaky timing in his at-bats. So the Twins kept him at the alternate site in St. Paul, not even putting him on road trip taxi squads, so he could find a rhythm in consistent simulation games there.
In his eight MLB games ahead of Friday, Kirilloff was batting .115.
The 23-year-old sent reliever Tyler Zuber's fastball 394 feet past left-center field in the third inning, scoring three runs after walks to Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz. In the fifth inning, he hit a solo homer of former Twins pitcher Ervin Santana, sending that one 416 feet into center field.
He nearly had a homer in his first plate appearance, too, but Kansas City center fielder Michael Taylor made the catch at the wall. But Kirilloff finished the game with two of the top-three exit velocities (106.1 and 105.5 mph) as well as three of the top four distances, including 404 feet on his fly ball to center.
Kirilloff has been one off several Twins experiencing bad luck at the plate early this season, hitting balls hard at sharp angles but somehow missing hits. Seeing him breakthrough was a lift for the whole team, even if Kirilloff didn't show it.
"It was definitely a pick-me-up, just to see him smile, see how happy his progression is," Byron Buxton said. "Because he put in a lot of hard work in the cage each and every day to go out there and play the game each night. It's just one of those where he definitely gave us a boost tonight."
Royals starter Brady Singer hit Luis Arraez with a pitch with the bases loaded in the second inning to start the scoring. Singer later left the game with a "left-heel contusion" after taking a very hard Josh Donaldson line drive off his Achilles, with just two innings completed, two hits and a run allowed, and three walks issued.
Between Kirilloff's homers, Carlos Santana hit one out of the park for the Royals, launching Michael Pineda's four-seamer to right-center field in the fourth inning. Pineda went five innings, giving up three hits, one earned run and two walks with five strikeouts.
Andrelton Simmons hit an RBI double to center field in the bottom of the eighth and scored Max Kepler, who had walked. Ben Rortvedt, making his major league debut, then recorded his first career hit and RBI, hitting a ball down the left-field foul line. He later scored his first run off a wild pitch with the bases loaded after three-consecutive walks. Nelson Cruz's sacrifice fly scored Arraez.
Baldelli said before the game the Twins were starting to feel back to normal after COVID-19 positive tests and injuries depleted the roster to start the season. The Twins are now 9-15 and made up a bit of ground against the 15-9 Royals.
Yet it was Kirilloff, one of the call-ups during those absences, who was the big star Friday.