FORT MYERS, FLA. _ Kyle Gibson admits to a degree of amazement at Mike Pelfrey's timeline for returning to a big-league mound following Tommy John surgery. "He said he was ready to go after nine months,'' Gibson said. "My recovery was more normal. I was just getting back on the mound after nine months.''
Pelfrey had to end his 2012 season with the New York Mets after four starts and had elbow surgery at the start of May. He will make his second exhibition start for the Twins on Sunday. He doesn't look at his availability to be in the Twins' rotation to start the season as even a question.
Gibson had his Tommy John surgery on Sept. 7, 2011. He returned to the mound on July 10, 2012 for the Gulf Coast Twins, throwing 14 2/3 innings in nine appearances for that rookie team. He pitched four more games and 13 2/3 innings for Fort Myers and Rochester, then stretched out his right arm a bit for 23 1/3 innings in six starts in the Arizona Fall League.
"It was good because I got to test myself against solid competition,'' Gibson said. "That league is all prospects. You're pitching against good lineups.''
Gibson was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA that was inflated by a bad outing among his six starts. He also was a starter in the Fall League's version of an All-Star Game. Baseball America rated Gibson, who turned 25 in October, as the fourth best prospect in Arizona.
He made his second exhibition start on Saturday vs. Boston at Hammond Stadium. The first time out he cruised through two innings. This time, Gibson's control was off, and he reached his 50-pitch limit while getting only five outs. The lone run was an opposite field home run by Juan Carolos Linares.
"I haven't been throwing my slider for strikes,'' Gibson said. "That's a surprise. In Arizona, when I needed an out, that was the pitch that I threw.''
Gibson threw to Joe Mauer for the first two times ever in these exhibitions. On occasion, sinkerballers like a catcher who sets up low. At nearly 6-foot-6 (Gibson's height), Mauer presents a higher target. Any problem with that?
"I love to throw at a big target,'' Gibson said. "I throw to the middle of the chest and let the ball move where it wants to.''
That is what is most noticeable with Gibson _ the big movement on his pitches, whether it's a sinker or a slider.
In Gibson's first full season after Tommy John surgery, the guess is the Twins will limit him to 130-140 innings. If he keeps it together and impresses in Florida, it would seem foolish to use any of those innings in the minor leagues.