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Updated: June 24th, 2013 5:04pm
Twins' plan means Kyle Gibson can handle hype days before start

Twins' plan means Kyle Gibson can handle hype days before start

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Twins plan to call up pitching prospect Kyle Gibson from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday, despite the fact he won't make his big-league debut until Saturday against Kansas City at Target Field.

So why would the team want Gibson to join them in Miami, four days ahead of his start? Rob Antony, the Twins' assistant general manager, said Monday there is a definite reason.

"We know there's going to be a lot of hype and there's going to be a lot of people that want to talk to him," Antony said Monday during an appearance on the "Judd & Dubay" show on 1500 ESPN. "Rather than have us come off the road here, bring him up the day before his start, have him deal with all the media stuff, have his head spinning, we thought it was an opportunity for him to come (up), get all that stuff out of the way.

"(He can) have a bullpen session with (pitching coach) Rick Anderson, talk with the catchers and sort of really get his feet on the ground. It's a little bit of a luxury that you usually don't have, but in this situation with having the off day (Monday), he basically just goes to the back of the rotation. He takes the spot that was vacated (after Sunday) and gives him an opportunity to really get all the other stuff out of the way and be focused and prepared for his start on Saturday."

Gibson, in his first full season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, had a 7-5 record with a 3.01 earned-run average with the Red Wings and had gone 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his past four starts. The Twins were able to make this move after Mike Pelfrey was placed on the disabled list Sunday because of a back strain.

Pelfrey had been scheduled to start Sunday at Cleveland but his spot was taken by Pedro Hernandez, who was called up from Rochester and then sent back down.

Twins fans expressed their frustration with the organization earlier this season when the 25-year-old Gibson wasn't brought up from Rochester. The team gave a few reasons for not making the move, including the fact that Gibson wasn't consistent enough from start to start.

Fans also felt the team was being cheap because calling up Gibson would start his arbitration clock. By keeping him in the minors until late June, he will not reach Super-2 arbitration status, which could help save the team millions down the road.

All of these things did factor into the decision.

Antony said Monday the Twins are now confident Gibson is prepared to pitch at this level.

"He's kept the ball down in the zone, he has not tried to nibble and he's been very aggressive in the strike zone," Antony said. "It's been a combination of things. Earlier in the year when we had some openings and had opportunities to promote, when we brought up P.J. Walters and we brought up Sam Deduno, at that time, Kyle was having a good outing and then struggling the next time out.

"There was just some inconsistency there and I know it was talked about, we were looking for a little more consistency, and then he started to show that and was ready to come up. But we really didn't have anybody in the rotation that deserved to be sent out at the time. So when Pelfrey went down with the back injury, we went and got Hernandez for a spot start (on Sunday). We believed the time was right to bring Kyle up and get him in the rotation and see how he does."

Twins officials also made it clear that one reason they didn't want to call up Gibson earlier was because once he was brought to the majors they wanted to make sure he stuck.

"That's what the hope is," Antony said. "I think all along we were hoping that we would be patient enough with Kyle that when he gets up here he never has to go back to the minor leagues. But, as is the case with a lot of young players, you never know. Sometimes a tune-up is required or a chance to go back down and regroup. But, hopefully, Kyle will hit the ground running and be in the big leagues the rest of his career."

Gibson pitched 92.2 innings at Rochester this season and reportedly has an innings limit of between 130 and 140 innings. The Twins, like most organizations, are going to be very cautious with any young pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery.

But Antony said the innings limit for Gibson might be more flexible than most think.

"That was probably at the beginning of the season," Antony said when asked about the number being between 130 and 140 innings. "We look at that, but I think a lot more goes into it than just the innings. I think you look at the stress and strain of it. How many innings are 1-2-3 innings compared to having a lot of runners on or having to battle through games, battle through innings late in games?

"Those are a lot higher stress than your first inning that might go 1-2-3 and you throw nine pitches or something. Kyle has pitched deep into games this year. I think we absolutely will monitor his innings, but we're also going to monitor the player himself. He's not 21, he's 25 years old.

"At the same time, he doesn't have five years of major league experience in either like a Mike Pelfrey (who had Tommy John surgery last year). We'll keep an eye on things. Right now we just want to give him an opportunity to get up here, see what he can do, show what he can do and hopefully it's a building block to the future for our rotation." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Mike Pelfrey, P.J. Walters
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