WASHINGTON – The swing that made Alex Kirilloff a first-round pick by the Twins in 2015 — and the line drives it can produce — was on display Sunday during the All-Star Futures Game.
Kirilloff singled in both of his at-bats Sunday — including one off fellow Twins farmhand Lewis Thorpe — as the U.S. defeated the World Team 10-6 at Nationals Park. Thorpe, a lefthander, had it rougher than Kirilloff, as the Australian got only two outs in the fourth inning while giving up four runs, including a two-run homer by Danny Jansen. It was one of eight homers in the game.
Kirilloff and Thorpe share more than just being in the same farm system. They both have had Tommy John elbow surgery derail their development. Thorpe missed 2015 and 2016 because of Tommy John surgery and mononucleosis. Kirilloff injured his elbow late in the 2016 season, took a platelet-rich-plasma injection and attempted rehab during the offseason before undergoing surgery March 8 the following year.
But both have distanced themselves from those injuries.
Thorpe, 22, is 4-4 with a 3.95 ERA at Chattanooga with 106 strikeouts in 84⅓ innings.
Kirilloff, 20, batted .333 with 13 homers and 56 RBI for Class A Cedar Rapids to force a promotion to Class A Fort Myers. He is batting .289 with a homer and 14 RBI in his first 22 games with the Miracle. He singled to center in the second inning, then took a Thorpe fastball to left in the fourth for a single. World left fielder Yusniel Diaz attempted a sliding catch but trapped the ball.
“Hah, it should have been caught,” joked Thorpe. “I told Alex, ‘Hey listen, I’m going to throw some fastballs, take it.’ I went 3-0 or 2-0 on him and he took advantage. He put the barrel on the ball.”
Such an arrangement was not brought up by Kirilloff, who was replaced after the fourth inning.
“I know him. I’ve never faced him before though,” he said of Thorpe. “Got a fastball, put a decent swing on it.”
Kirilloff disagreed that he has picked up his career where he left it, because of the rust he had to shed once he was cleared to play.
“It was hard to be away from it for so long and then jump back into it,” he said. “Just as an athlete a lot go through it because injuries are part of the game. You try to remind yourself throughout the process of what was I doing before so I can go back to that. It’s one thing to think about it and another to apply it at game speed.”
U.S. manager Torii Hunter isn’t surprised Kirilloff did so well. The former Twin visited Cedar Rapids early this season and is impressed with how Kirilloff hits to all fields.
“I think this guy is not too far from the big leagues,” Hunter said. “His swing is beautiful.”
The U.S. team title is not a typo. Hunter was asked to run the team, then he suggested that good friend David Ortiz manage the World team. It didn’t end there, as former Twins teammates LaTroy Hawkins and Matthew LeCroy were named to Hunter’s coaching staff, as well as Fort Myers hitting coach Steve Singleton, a former Twins minor leaguer.
It made the Futures Games rather Twins-centric.
“It shows you how smart Torii is, bringing me in to help him,” said LeCroy, the manager of the Class AA Harrisburg Senators. “but to see this big, talented group is a special moment. And to see Torii, I haven’t seen him in years. We had a lot of laughs at dinner. It brings back a lot of good memories.”