The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 1, 2013

Thoma column:


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Kyle Gibson has been a long time coming.

Saturday, after a roughly two-year delay caused by injury, surgery and rehab, the right-hander made his major-league debut. Six innings of two-run ball is a solid debut, even if it was against the relatively weak Kansas City lineup.

Few pitchers in Twins history have been greeted with as much anticipation. The eagerness to see Gibson has two roots: the team’s obvious need for a quality starting pitcher and the long wait to see him.

Gibson was widely expected to push his way into the Minnesota rotation in the second half of 2011, but elbow problems resulted in ligament replacement surgery, and the Twins chose, sensibly, to have him do the bulk of his rehab pitching in the minors.

Even now, this is, in truth, still a rehab year from the 2011 Tommy John surgery, and that was the second significant injury Gibson sustained in two years (he had a stress fracture in his pitching forearm as a college senior, which caused him to drop in the 2009 draft).

But he’s here now, at least until whatever unspecified innings limitations are placed on him kick in, and that stirs questions about the future of the rotation.

Gibson’s arrival is the best thing to happen to the Twins pitching plans so far. The view here entering the season was that the Twins rotation goals should be:

1) Establish Vance Worley and Scott Diamond as reliable 30-start, 200-inning third and fourth starters;

2) Get Gibson’s career started;

3) See if there is a decent fifth starter on hand.

The guys who might someday be the caliber of pitcher one expects to see in the first two games of the playoffs — Alex Meyer, Gibson, J.O. Berrios, Trevor May — opened 2013 on various levels of the minors. The realistic goal on the big team was to fill the other three rotation spots.

Diamond has taken a step back this year; Worley has fallen off even more. That goal has not been met. On a more positive note, Sam Deduno has given indications that he might be a rotation piece in future seasons. Can he keep throwing strikes?

As for veterans Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey: They are what they are, journeymen who aren’t rotation anchors for a contender. They were brought in to provide starts and innings, and they have done so.

I wouldn’t be surprised, or dismayed, if either was traded this month. On the other hand, if one is moved, I’m not sure who the Twins would put in his place now that Gibson is here.

One move I do expect to see before season’s end is Worley’s return. Not that he’s been brilliant, or even particularly effective, in Triple A since his demotion, but because the Twins made a significant investment in him.

But Worley’s return can probably wait until Gibson reaches his shutdown point.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.