Kyle Gibson: Ready to prove he has the right stuff

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2012 - 10:52 AM

Back from elbow surgery, Kyle Gibson is gunning to make the Twins' rotation.

PEORIA, ARIZ.

The late-morning desert sun was pushing temperatures toward 90 degrees at the Arizona Fall League as Kyle Gibson began discussing the rising heat -- on his fastball.

Sitting at a picnic table, with his twice-scarred right elbow tucked to his side, the Twins' 2009 first-round draft pick had a hard time containing his smile.

Gibson had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow on Sept. 7, 2011, but now he looks as good as new, if not better. His average fastball velocity has jumped from 89 to 90 miles per hour pre-surgery to about 92-93 mph in Arizona.

"My stuff is the best it's ever been," Gibson said earlier this month. "I feel better than I've ever felt. I have a little bit more on my fastball. Everything's moving a little bit differently, and it just feels a little more comfortable, really."

Gibson, 25, spent the fall re- establishing himself as the Twins' top pitching prospect and was added to the 40-man roster Tuesday. When he reports to spring training next February, he'll be 17 months removed from elbow surgery and a viable candidate to start the season in the big-league rotation -- if the team lets that happen.

As badly as the Twins need starting pitching, General Manager Terry Ryan remains cautious about Gibson.

"Let's keep it in perspective," Ryan said. "Don't get too carried away with, 'Well, he's dominated all these levels.' He hasn't pitched that many innings in the minor leagues [275 2/3 for his career]. So he'll come in and compete for a spot."

Other major-league scouts believe the 6-6 righthander still has the potential to be a strong No. 2 starter on a championship-caliber team -- an ace by the Twins' recent standards, at least. Even Ryan sounds giddy when he starts rattling off Gibson's attributes.

"He looks like they're supposed to look," Ryan said. "He's got the nice frame. He's got a good delivery. He's got a three-pitch mix. He throws plenty hard enough. He can spin the ball, and he can throw his off-speed. He's a good athlete. He's a good kid."

Lessons learned

Growing up in Greenfield, Ind., about 25 miles east of Indianapolis, Gibson lived in a basketball hotbed, but baseball was his passion. In first grade, he wrote a paper, stating his goal of playing in the major leagues.

"He was so easy to raise," said Gibson's father, Harold, who helped coach his traveling teams. "He would do anything I asked him. If I told him to hold the bat the wrong way, upside down, he would have been trying to find a way to do it."

Gibson's path toward his goal was not smooth. He fractured the growth plate in his right elbow during his freshman year of high school and required surgery. It was a repetitive stress injury; all those long hours of practice had caught up to him.

The recovery went well, but it gave Gibson and his family a wake-up call.

"We might have been living our life through baseball," Harold Gibson said. "Kyle took on a different appreciation for what was important. He said, 'If I don't pitch another day in my life, it's OK. I've got other things.'

"And I think that's helped him a bunch. Baseball isn't life. It's something he loves to do."

Gibson had two good seasons at Greenfield High School, but he wasn't a prized recruit. He still had growing to do. As a senior in 2006, he was 6-3, 160 pounds. Missouri was one of the few colleges to offer a scholarship, and he wasn't drafted until the 36th round, by the Phillies.

"I was really skinny and didn't really throw that hard," Gibson said. "I think senior year, I was throwing 86-91 [miles per hour], so it wasn't like I was a super prospect."

Gibson chose to attend Missouri, defying his father, who thought he should sign with the Phillies.

"I was so upset with him," Harold Gibson said. "We hardly talked for a week. I said, 'Do you know how many kids would kill to be in your position?' He said, 'Dad, I don't want to go to the minors. I want to go to the majors.'"

Gibson knew he wasn't physically ready for professional baseball. He got taller and filled out his slender frame at Missouri. By his junior year, he was listed as a potential top-10 draft pick.

But his stock plunged late that season, when he developed a stress fracture in his right forearm, about four inches from the elbow. The injury healed with two months of rest, but it caused Gibson to fall to the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, where the Twins grabbed him and eventually signed him for $1.85 million.

The Twins were among many teams that passed on outfielder Mike Trout, who went to the Angels at No. 25 and recently won the American League Rookie of the Year award and finished second in the AL MVP voting at age 21. But the Gibson selection sure looked good in 2010, when he climbed from Class A to Class AAA, going 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 26 combined starts.

Another injury

The Twins invited Gibson to big-league camp in 2011, and he made a good impression before returning to Class AAA Rochester. He seemed a sure bet to join the Twins later that year, but after a strong April, his season unraveled. By August, he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Dr. David Altchek performed the Tommy John procedure a month later.

"I've been really lucky," Gibson said. "The whole process, it almost seemed too easy. The [Twins] training staff and Dr. Altchek's staff laid it out really, really well. And for the most part, I was blessed. I didn't have any setbacks."

Gibson returned to a mound by July and pitched 28 1/3 innings at three stops in the minors, including two games for Rochester. His first two starts in the Fall League were eye-openers: He allowed one run in 10 innings, with 16 strikeouts and no walks.

"I've seen him at his best, before he was injured, and he's similar to that now," said Mike Radcliff, the Twins vice president of player personnel. "He doesn't have the sharpness of the slider that he did in the past, but velocity, approach, remaining in control, usability of all three [pitches], he's about the same."

Close to the goal

The Fall League is considered a finishing school for baseball's top prospects, and Gibson's final four outings were pretty rocky. He finished 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA, but the Twins' biggest takeaway from 2012 is that Gibson has been able to rack up about 75-80 innings, counting his controlled workouts in Fort Myers, Fla.

The Washington Nationals famously shut down Stephen Strasburg this September after 159 1/3 innings, in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The Twins have hinted they won't let Gibson throw more than 140 innings next year; it's worth noting that his career high for innings pitched was 152 in 2010.

"I don't think you ought to put a strict number on [Gibson's 2013 innings limit]," Ryan said. "I still believe it's more about pitches per outing and how [the innings] accumulate and the way he gets through a particular game and so forth. But we're certainly going to monitor him."

The Nationals were widely panned for shutting down Strasburg, while the Braves were generally praised for how they handled Kris Medlen. In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, Medlen opened the year in Atlanta's bullpen. After moving to the rotation on July 31, he went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts and finished the year with 144 1/3 innings pitched, counting the postseason.

"I know the Twins have talked about a couple scenarios," Gibson said. "I really can't control any of that. They're going to set my innings limit. I'm not going to have any say in that because if I did, I would say 180 innings, and I'm ready to go."

Gibson said he's ready for anything, even if it means opening another season in the minors. But at some point next year, the dream he wrote about in first grade could come true.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 82 3rd Qtr 4:35
Orlando 61
Brooklyn 70 3rd Qtr 1:01
Philadelphia 62
Portland 74 3rd Qtr 2:42
Charlotte 69
Washington 55 3rd Qtr 5:57
Cleveland 68
LA Clippers 48 2nd Qtr 0:00
Detroit 51
New York 42 2nd Qtr 0:14
Dallas 45
Toronto 64 2nd Qtr 0:13
Atlanta 61
Milwaukee 28 2nd Qtr 10:39
Minnesota 26
Sacramento 19 2nd Qtr
Houston 37
Utah 29 2nd Qtr 10:31
Oklahoma City 33
Indiana 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Denver 8:00 PM
Phoenix
Memphis 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Winnipeg 2 3rd Prd
Buffalo 0
Washington 2 3rd Prd
NY Islanders 2
Philadelphia 1 2nd Prd 17:29
Detroit 1
NY Rangers 2 2nd Prd 16:10
Tampa Bay 2
Carolina 0 2nd Prd 13:53
Florida 1
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 17:47
Pittsburgh 2
Los Angeles 2 1st Prd 3:11
Minnesota 0
Chicago 8:00 PM
Colorado
Calgary 9:30 PM
San Jose
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 58 2nd Half 7:38
UAB 30
Davidson 86 2nd Half 7:18
UCF 60
Albany 60 2nd Half 2:57
Colgate 57
Longwood 41 2nd Half 11:03
George Washington 55
Delaware State 63 2nd Half 7:01
Iona 103
Trinity Baptist 53 2nd Half 4:16
Jacksonville 60
Cleveland State 29 2nd Half 6:53
Louisville 36
St Johns 51 2nd Half 9:51
Minnesota 55
PSU-Harrisburg 40 2nd Half 4:39
Navy 57
Richmond 63 2nd Half 7:24
NC State 66
Grambling St 52 2nd Half 2:28
Notre Dame 77
Georgia State 76 2nd Half 4:19
Oakland 70
Campbell 54 2nd Half 6:42
Ohio State 75
Goucher 36 2nd Half 7:15
Towson 79
Bryant 31 2nd Half 5:39
Vermont 58
Miami-Ohio 35 2nd Half 11:45
Virginia Tech 60
Mount St Marys 28 2nd Half 9:00
Wake Forest 66
Lafayette 50 2nd Half 9:33
Yale 68
UMKC 50 2nd Half 7:49
Youngstown St 52
Canisius 34 2nd Half 15:48
Cornell 42
Va Military 35 2nd Half
West Virginia 53
Lehigh 31 1st Half 5:54
DePaul 20
UC Riverside 25 1st Half 5:44
Loyola Marymount 15
Morehead State 32 1st Half 6:00
Marshall 21
Miss Valley St 25 1st Half 6:00
North Texas 28
UNC-Asheville 25 1st Half 4:16
South Carolina 32
Tenn Tech 39 1st Half 2:56
SE Louisiana 30
Texas Southern 15 1st Half 4:54
SMU 24
Radford 18 1st Half 5:12
TCU 23
TX-Pan American 19 1st Half 5:57
Utah 32
Wayne St-NE 22 1st Half 5:28
South Dakota 32
Kansas State 20 1st Half 5:25
Pittsburgh 20
Northern Ill 6 1st Half 16:47
Iowa 4
Fla Gulf Coast 7:30 PM
Green Bay
Carroll (MT) 8:00 PM
Montana
Florida A&M 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Auburn 8:00 PM
Oregon State
Eastern Ky 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Stetson 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Northern Ky 8:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Utah Valley U 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Florida 8:30 PM
Georgetown
Georgia 8:30 PM
Gonzaga
Northwestern 8:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
California
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Utah State 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Alabama State 9:30 PM
North Dakota
Portland State 10:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Tulsa 10:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Pacific 10:30 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Missouri State 11/27/14 1:00 AM
Colorado State
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Kennesaw St 74 FINAL
Seton Hall 77
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Evansville 37 2nd Half 7:23
(22) West Virginia 66
(4) Tennessee 53 2nd Half 6:07
Chattanooga 57
Delaware State 60 2nd Half 0:33
Mount St Marys 68
Bradley 58 2nd Half 3:51
Columbia 58
Providence 49 2nd Half 4:47
Dayton 62
Albany 47 2nd Half 5:13
Canisius 47
VA Commonwealth 40 2nd Half 4:44
William & Mary 44
Alabama A&M 38 2nd Half 7:37
Alabama 59
Colgate 28 2nd Half 4:19
(22) Georgia 56
Memphis 64 2nd Half 2:59
Southern Ill 75
Oakland 27 2nd Half 20:00
(16) Michigan State 41
Utah Valley U 24 2nd Half
UC Davis 35
Butler 26 1st Half 0:32
BYU 38
TX-Pan American 8 1st Half 7:33
(6) Texas 25
McNeese State 12 1st Half 6:12
(7) Texas A&M 35
Milwaukee 34 1st Half 4:57
Marquette 32
Northern Ariz 22 1st Half 5:51
TX-Arlington 28
Jackson State 11 1st Half 11:04
Chicago State 25
Indiana State 34 1st Half 3:08
South Alabama 20
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 8:00 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Iona 8:00 PM
Kansas
Fresno Pacific 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What do you think of the new Twins home uniforms?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close