After making nine starts between the Rookie League and Class A Fort Myers, Kyle Gibson is about to make a big jump. Tomorrow he'll be making his return to Triple-A Rochester, where he'll start for the Red Wings for the first time since last September. This, my friends, qualifies as very good news.
Gibson is not on the 40-man roster, which is fine. At present it makes zero sense to add him with the hope of letting him pitch for the Twins in September, because there's nothing to gain. In Rochester he'll be able to pitch against the same competition he was up against last season, and the primary purpose of these last couple weeks should be to just get as many innings in as possible and to get the shoulder used to working again.
Minnesota's plans for Gibson sound very similar. We already know that the Twins will be in need of starting pitching next season, and Assistant General Manager Rob Antony admits that Gibson could be able to compete for one of those spots.
What's nice about Gibson's situation is that by the time spring training rolls around in February, he'll be nearly 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery. That means he'll not only have the time necessary to get his arm back into shape, but because he hasn't been rushed to full speed (think Joe Nathan) he'll also have time to work through the inevitable pain and necessary days off. Nathan had a lot of scar tissue to break down, and we've seen this year how effective he still can be now that he's healthy. Gibson's extra time will be invaluable.
He'll be limited to 60-65 pitches, which should be enough to get him through four innings and possibly five if he's efficient and effective. While it's impossible to read too much into the numbers he's put up in the 21.2 innings he's pitched this season, at the very least it's good to see that the lower levels haven't beaten him up. He's been very effective, which is what you want to see.
Can he be effective with Rochester at the end of the season? Possibly, possibly not. But it really doesn't matter. The only thing that's important right now is getting and keeping him on the hill, and getting some innings under his belt so that when next spring rolls around that level of competition is still fresh for him.