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Kirilloff clicking after watching Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge and Tigers outfielder Kerry Carpenter may deserve credit for Alex Kirilloff’s breakout week.

Kirilloff watched a video of the two hitters to see when they started to load up for their swings and made an adjustment with his own timing.

“A lot of times when you get something mechanically that clicks, it helps you see the ball better,” said Kirilloff, who entered Saturday with four homers and 17 RBI in his past 12 games. “It puts you in a better position to hit, so it could be that. It could be a number of other stuff, too. I can’t really put my finger directly on it.”

Whatever Kirilloff is doing, it’s working in a big way. He has started hitting for power to all fields, pulling a homer to right for the first time this season Friday. He entered Saturday with seven extra-base hits in his past six games.

Kirilloff went a month between home runs, and he hit only two doubles in his last 20 games before the All-Star break.

“Just doing some different things mechanically,” Kirilloff said. “Timing-wise, I feel like, too. Just getting started earlier. Looking at videos of other players and how they do it.”

For the past five games, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has hit Edouard Julien and Kirilloff back-to-back in the lineup, two young players he believes are feeding off each other. Kirilloff is batting .315 with runners on base this season and .335 when there is a runner in scoring position.

“There is so much quality there as far as the way they see the ball, the way they’re reacting to different pitches,” Baldelli said. “Believe me, the guys they’re facing, they do have an idea about how to get lefthanded hitters out. But they are just going out there and doing better than the pitcher, laying off the pitches that they want them to swing at, then attacking the right ones and not missing very many of them.”

Thielbar continues to progress

Caleb Thielbar completed a live batting practice session before Saturday’s game, the first time he faced hitters since he went on the 15-day injured list on June 9.

“That’s a big step,” said Thielbar, who is on his second stint on the IL with an oblique strain. “The velocity is more than I’ve thrown for a while. Trying to gradually work up the intensity and see how the body responds.”

If Thielbar recovers as expected after his live batting practice session, he could be days away from starting a minor league rehab assignment. Without Thielbar, Jovani Moran is the only left-handed reliever in the Twins’ bullpen.

“He spun the ball well,” Baldelli said. “The ball looked like it was coming out good. He didn’t look impeded in any way and I think that’s what a live BP should look like from him.”

Thielbar added: “It’s just more mental than anything. It hurt for so long, it’s hard to get it out of my head. That’s the main thing.”

Keuchel bypasses opt-out

Dallas Keuchel, pitching at Class AAA, chose not to exercise the opt-out clause in his minor league contract Friday and will continue pitching for the St. Paul Saints.

Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings Saturday and has posted a 0.69 ERA through 26 innings with 20 strikeouts and 11 walks. If the 2015 American League Cy Young winner triggered his opt-out clause, he could have terminated his contract and entered free agency if the Twins didn’t promote him to the major leagues. He likely has another opt-out clause around the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The 35-year-old lefty had a 9.20 ERA in 14 starts with the White Sox, Diamondbacks and Rangers last year.


• Joey Gallo and Willi Castro remained out of the lineup Saturday after they were scratched with pink eye Friday. “Pink eye is still present,” Baldelli said. “It’s still itchy. But no more prevalent.”

• Reliever Blayne Enlow gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings and the Saints lost to host Omaha for the second night in a row. Jorge Polanco went 2-for-3 with a home run and one RBI.