Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/11/12
FORT MYERS, Fla. A short walk from Hammond Stadium, the spring training home of the Twins, is the organization's minor league fields. That's where pitching prospect Kyle Gibson can be found this March. If not for Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the 24-year-old Gibson likely would have been pitching at Hammond Stadium this spring, trying to earn a spot on Minnesota's 25-man roster. Instead, he's continuing the long rehabilitation that accompanies the ligament replacement surgery. Gibson is currently throwing from 60 feet and said he'll be throwing from 75 feet next week. He's tentatively scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time on June 7, a date circled on his calendar that seems like a lifetime away. "I'm not counting the days just yet," Gibson said Sunday. "There's a lot of work to be done and lots of throwing and a lot of strength to get back in my arm before I get up there and can actually do my thing." Gibson is also eyeing another date, Aug. 7, which is when he's hoping to return to game action. Twins general manager Terry Ryan reiterated Sunday that the plan remains for Gibson to pitch late this summer. "Everything's going according to play," Ryan said. "He hasn't had any setbacks. They keep a pretty good eye on him over there. . . . I think he feels good about where he's at." Gibson's arm began hurting during a start with Triple-A Rochester in late June of last season. After rehabbing his arm, Gibson made his next start following the Red Wings' All-Star break. It wasn't long before the pain was back, this time too much to bear. Gibson had an MRI on his right arm and was diagnosed in late October as a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. The surgery can take at least a year to recover from, meaning nearly all of Gibson's 2012 season is shot. But he's still working toward getting back on the mound before the year is done. When he does return, it will be in the minors at first. After coming so close to his goal of pitching in the majors, Gibson can't help but wonder "what if?" "I mean, it's tough not to. But who knows?" he said. "I mean, really, last year, I can't really get too frustrated with not being called up to the big leagues last year, because I really wasn't throwing real good. . . . They always say, if you don't like where you are, play better. And that's one thing I needed to do last year. If I wanted a chance to get up there I just needed to be pitching better. It just wasn't my year." Gibson made 18 starts at Rochester last season before his injury and was just 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA. In 2010, he finished the season by making his first three career starts at Triple A and posted a 1.72 ERA in 15-23 innings. His struggles last year at Rochester meant he never got that call-up to the majors in 2011. "My fastball command really wasn't very good. My off-speed was good -- probably as good as it's ever been," Gibson said. "But it just goes to show, your off-speed can be really good, but a pitcher like me, I have to work off my fastball. And if my sinker's not good, I'm really not going to throw very well. I can look back and say, 'Man, what could have been.' But unfortunately I just wasn't throwing the ball very well." The big leagues may still be one year -- and one more spring training -- from becoming a reality for Gibson. But after the surgery in September followed by months of tedious rehab, Gibson is just happy to be back on a baseball field. "It's definitely different being out here and not being able to do everything, in (pitcher fielding practice), not being able to throw the ball to the bases like I normally am. Having to do some drills just a little bit different than everybody else still is a little different but it's fun being out here," Gibson said. "Basically my focus is just that I stay on schedule and when June 7 gets here, be ready, and from there prepare myself to be on the mound in August." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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