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Twins' Falvey tells top prospects to ‘be a sponge’

Minnesota Twins shortstop Royce Lewis signs autographs at TwinsFest at Target Field in Minneapolis, Jan. 27, 2019. (Scott Takushi / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

CLEARWATER, Fla.— With an oblique injury keeping him sidelined, the Twins’ top prospect, Royce Lewis, hasn’t had a chance to appear in a game this spring.

But there’s plenty for Lewis to learn without stepping onto the field.

A big reason the Twins have their two top prospects, Lewis and outfielder Alex Kirilloff, in big-league camp this year goes far beyond playing on the field.

“Be a sponge,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told them.

The Twins are hoping the experience of having Lewis, 19, and Kirilloff, 21, who both finished last season with Class A Fort Myers, in the major league clubhouse this spring will pay dividends as the pair eventually heads back down to the minors for 2019.

“I think the biggest thing for them is to use it as a learning experience and to get to be around the veteran presences in that clubhouse and see how Max Kepler goes about his work, see how Byron Buxton goes about his work, Jorge Polanco and so on, and learn from Nelson Cruz,” farm director Jeremy Zoll said.

The more the pair can gather about big-league rhythms and see the consistency required to excel in the majors, the more it will help their own development.

Lewis suffered a mild oblique strain early in camp, so he hasn’t seen the field. Before the injury, he said he mostly wanted to pick up on the routine and “almost everything but the on-the-field stuff.”

Oblique injuries have a tendency to stick around for weeks, and manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins would have a conservative approach bringing him back. But if he isn’t ready for games by the time he’s sent down to minor-league camp, the Twins could bring him back for games later in March.

“I’m anticipating, whether it’s early in camp in games or as camp progresses, we’re going to see him out here in major league spring training games, regardless of what time of the spring it’s going to be,” Baldelli said. “I’d like to see him personally.”

After suffering the injury a day before, Lewis spent last Saturday sitting in the dugout taking in the game. He said while he would love to be out playing, he could still learn from the bench.

“He basically sat down at the end of the bench and talked with a few of our very well-known staff members here and our special guests in camp, which I thought was really cool,” Baldelli said Saturday. “(Bench coach Derek Shelton) noticed it and pointed it out and I said ‘I think that’s great, great for him.’ Kirilloff came out of the game, he also, he hung around. Just wanted to watch. I think it can be beneficial and those guys made their choice to do (it), and I thought it was great.”

Kirilloff has spent his time tapping into advice wherever he can find it. In his limited action, he is 1 for 5 at the plate in parts of three games, picking up his first spring hit on Wednesday.

“All up and down the locker room, you’ve got guys like Nelson Cruz that have been around for 15-plus years now, guys like Tyler Austin and Byron Buxton have been up in the league for a few years now, too, so they have experience, so it’s always good, whoever you can talk to, to pick their brains,” Kirilloff said.

Falvey said he hopes the duo have their eyes and ears open so that when they do head back to minor-league camp, they can help pass along what they’ve learned.

“You’re now the guy who went to major league camp. Now expectations have risen for you and how you handle yourself over there,” Falvey said. “You’re going to have to go and be leaders over there because you’re learning from the leaders here and now translate that back on the minor league side as well, and I think those guys will do a good job with that as well.”

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