MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson has finally joined the Minnesota Twins, a long-awaited promotion the team is counting on being permanent for the former first-round draft pick.
Gibson was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. Set to wear No. 44, Gibson has been slated to start for the Twins on Saturday at Target Field against the Kansas City Royals. With the scars from a major surgery still fresh, Gibson has been treated carefully. Now their use of the 25-year-old will be one of the most-scrutinized story lines for the rest of the season.
"He's done a good job down there," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told reporters in Cleveland after Gibson got the call. "Basically, we were just looking for an opening and an opportunity when it presented itself."
The Twins were off on Monday, with a two-game series in Miami against the Marlins set to start on Tuesday.
Gibson was unavailable for comment, but as he boarded a flight for Florida he posted on Twitter: "Couldn't be more excited right now!!"
When Mike Pelfrey landed on the disabled list because of a back strain, Pedro Hernandez was summoned from Rochester for a short-notice start against the Indians on Sunday. Hernandez was sent back after the game, and Gibson was brought up to join Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters in the rotation.
Gibson was selected by the Twins in 2009 with the 22nd overall pick in the draft out of the University of Missouri, but for a college pitcher this hasn't exactly been the fast track to the big leagues. Gibson reached Triple-A by 2010, starting three games for the Red Wings, but his progress was halted near the end of the following summer when the right-hander developed discomfort in his throwing elbow.
Tommy John ligament replacement surgery was scheduled for Sept. 7, 2011, and since then he's been in recovery mode. He returned to make 11 starts in the minors last summer, and he went 7-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 15 starts for Rochester this year, including two shutouts. Opponents batted .229 against him, and he struck out 79 with 28 walks in 92 2-3 innings.
The conservative approach to a top prospect's ascension through the farm system was hardly out of the ordinary for the Twins, who are as cautious as any club in baseball about this.
But that didn't mean fans of a team with underwhelming starting pitching for a third straight year were waiting patiently, particularly after Liam Hendriks made the rotation out of spring training and Hernandez, Deduno and Walters received promotions from Rochester ahead of Gibson this season.
The Twins have declined to specify a number, but they've discussed an innings limit for Gibson this year, even if that means shutting him down with several weeks remaining in the regular season. Last year, the Washington Nationals were widely panned for declaring a ceiling ahead of time for star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and once he reached 159 1-3 innings he was done, even with the team in the pennant race. The Nationals made the playoffs and lost their first-round series without him.
Before the season, Gibson said he was bracing for an early end to his season.
"I want to throw the whole year because that's just how competitive I am. But they're going to come up with a plan and I'm just going to trust in that plan," Gibson said in January at the team's annual fan festival.
Progress is slower in baseball than any of the sports, with no clock during games and 162 contests each season. But with Gibson's call-up and the recent promotion of potential stars Byron Buxton (the center fielder went from low Class A Cedar Rapids to high Class A Fort Myers) and Miguel Sano (the third baseman left Fort Myers for Double-A New Britain), the future moved a little closer for the Twins.