Kyle Gibson never wanted to be a cautionary tale, but the timing couldn’t be more apropos. At the same time the current cover of Sports Illustrated proclaims Gibson’s team “fat with Twin phenoms” and annoints Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano as “the next Mike Trout, the next Bryce Harper,” Gibson reminded Minnesota that prospects don’t come with guarantees and that hype doesn’t trump results.
“We just wanted to see what he had, see how he did,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Gibson absorbed the brunt of the Twins’ fourth consecutive loss, 6-1 to the Mets on Monday, then was returned to Class AAA Rochester. “Not too many people can go out and dominate right away.”
It’s true, but it’s a lesson the Twins must be getting tired of learning. Gibson is the third former first-round pick to be handed a full-time job by the Twins this season, and just like Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee before him, he’s the third to be spending late August in Rochester instead of Minneapolis.
“The Twins gave me an opportunity, and obviously I didn’t take advantage like I wanted to. I didn’t come up here and have the success that I wanted,” said Gibson, whose ERA stands at 6.53 after he retired only eight of the 20 Mets hitters he faced. “So I’m going to go down and work on some stuff and hopefully I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
That’s the Twins’ hope, too, though it’s not likely to be this year; the 11 outs he recorded Monday bring his innings count, major and minor league, to 143⅔, in his first full season after his September 2011 elbow reconstruction surgery. Gibson said he hopes to help Rochester as it fights for an International League championship, but that’s going to be up to the Twins.
“His innings are really big right now. They’re to the point where I don’t know how much he’s going to do down there,” Gardenhire said. “Let’s get him down there and then we’ll decide.”
Figure the Twins to be patient and cautious; that’s been their method for years, and it’s why Hicks and Parmelee almost certainly will get another shot next year. And it’s why, when Buxton and Sano finally arrive with fanfare that will be practically Favre-ian, if the attention being paid while they’re still at Class A and Class AA is any indication, the Twins will try not to invoke Willie Mays and Hank Aaron right away.
“We want our players to live up to their talents,” General Manager Terry Ryan said earlier this month, “not [someone else’s] expectations.”
Gibson didn’t do either one in his two months with the Twins, and Monday’s outing was evidence enough that he isn’t close to a breakthrough. He put at least three runners on base in three of the four innings he was on the mound, and while nine of the Mets’ 10 hits were singles, “I was working myself into jams most of the day,” he said.
Gibson was so annoyed with himself, once Gardenhire came to get him, he marched up to the clubhouse, cued up the video and did a pitch-by-pitch autopsy.
“If you go back and look at the video, it’s probably not a mystery that I’m struggling right now,” Gibson said. “I went back and [counted] — out of the  pitches, I hit my spot on 27 of them.”
That explains why, once the Twins’ latest exercise in stranding runners on base was complete — seriously, 0-for-10 with runners on second or third this time, and a grand total of 15-for-81 (.185) during this dreary 2-6 homestand — Gibson was told he wouldn’t accompany his teammates to Detroit.
“He knows what he needs to do to get better,” Gardenhire said after breaking the news to the former phenom. “His stuff is good; his fastball’s good, his sinker moves, but as you can see, his command is not there yet. He can’t get them in the right places.”
Nor, at the moment, can the Twins with their best prospects.