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Kyle Gibson, pitches for the Peoria Javelinas against the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League

Dave Cruz Photography, Dave Cruz Photography

Gibson's health passes key test in Fall League

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN
  • Star Tribune
  • November 15, 2012 - 7:54 AM

Kyle Gibson's work in the Arizona Fall League is finished. Next stop: big league spring training camp with the Twins.

Gibson, who had Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow on Sept. 7, 2011, opened this fall with two excellent starts in Arizona, allowing one run in 10 innings, with 16 strikeouts and no walks.

Then, he came down to earth in what's always been a hitter-friendly league.

Gibson, 25, made his final start Wednesday and finished 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA, with eight walks, 28 strikeouts and 31 hits allowed in 23 1/3 innings.

"My first two starts, my fastball command was really good, and that's why I was able to have the success I did," Gibson said in a recent interview. "But my last few starts, my fastball command hasn't been there. So I'm working on things, but healthwise, I feel great."

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said Gibson will be back in big-league camp next spring, just as the righthander was in 2011 before injuring his elbow that year at Class AAA Rochester.

"I'm pleased that he's healthy," Ryan said. "That was the whole objective, to get him back on the mound and get him some work. We're pleased to get him up around 70-80 innings [cumulative, for the year]."

Roberts leads the league

Nate Roberts has been a surprise atop the Fall League batting leaders this year, but the Twins always knew the outfielder could hit.

Roberts batted .416 and led the nation with a .573 on-base percentage for High Point University in North Carolina before the Twins made him their fifth-round draft pick in 2010.

A knee injury kept him out from July 2011 through this past May. After batting .299 in 76 games for Class A Beloit, Roberts went to Arizona, where he entered Wednesday leading the league in batting average (.474) and on-base percentage (.592).

"I know I can play with anybody, but it's about staying healthy," Roberts said last week.

Roberts, 23, said the offseason will give him an important window to rebuild leg strength that he still lacks because of the knee injury. If he can stay on the field and keep hitting, he could start the year at Class A Fort Myers and climb quickly.

"He's always been a pretty good outfielder, and he has the capability to do a lot of things on a baseball field to help a team win," Ryan said. "We've just got to find a way to make sure he plays five full months [in 2013]."

Tonkin thriving, too

Twins relief prospect Michael Tonkin posted a 0.66 ERA in his first nine Arizona Fall League appearances but gave up three runs Wednesday, raising it to 2.45. Tonkin, 22, who is Jason Kubel's brother-in-law, finished last season at Class A Fort Myers.

Gibson is 6-foot-6, Tonkin is 6-7, and both throw fastballs in the 91-94-miles-per-hour range.

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