A lot of credit behind the Minnesota Twins’ recent success can be attributed to their improved performance of their starting rotation. In baseball, in order to do well, it still comes down to pitching, especially starting pitching. When things have gone well for the Twins in years past, a lot of their success was due to their deep and talented starting rotation that kept them in games and their strong bullpen that closed them out. In 2013, the same formula for success still applies.
With the recent promotions of Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters, the starting rotation has seen an uptick in performance which has resulted in a more rested bullpen and more wins overall. Few would have guessed that two—relatively unknown—pitchers from the minor leagues would have the type of impact that they have on the Twins and the rotation, but baseball can be a game about consistency, attitude and confidence and these two pitchers have brought all three with them to the majors and it seems to have rubbed off on those around them.
The pitcher that many analysts and fans have been clamoring for to be promoted instead of Deduno or Walters is highly touted prospect Kyle Gibson. Gibson’s arrival to the majors has been delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2011, but this season he has done well enough at Triple-A to merit a promotion to the majors; the problem is, many believe there is no room for him at the present time. At one point, Gibson was a candidate to replace Vance Worley, Liam Hendriks and Mike Pelfrey in the rotation when each of them struggled and now there are rumors that Gibson could replace Scott Diamond if he were to continue to struggle. With Diamond likely to be given a lot more time to work things out and since his performance hasn’t required immediate action, there seems to be no current room in the rotation for Gibson with Deduno, Walters, Pelfrey and Kevin Correia pitching well. So what options do the Twins have left?
Rated as the number 68 overall prospect in all of baseball heading into 2013 by Baseball America, Gibson—in my opinion—has proved that he doesn’t belong in Triple-A anymore. On the year, Gibson is 7-5 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.144 WHIP and a 2.82 strikeout to walk ratio over 15 starts in 92.2 innings pitched. Those statistics would certainly be good enough for Gibson to merit a promotion, but he also is believed to have an inning limit placed on him similar to what Stephen Strasburg had placed on him last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery. What the exact inning limit is on Gibson for 2013 is unclear, but he certainly will not be pitching a full load. With that in mind, a viable option for Gibson with the Twins is placing the youngster in the bullpen.
The Atlanta Braves conducted a similar process with youngster Kris Medlen last season when they started him in the bullpen during the early portion of the season and eventually worked him into the rotation by the end of the year; it was a resounding success. It’d be good to have Gibson get a few innings in with the Twins as a middle or long reliever at the majors and even have him available for a spot start here and there. Gibson could still be held on a pitch and inning count and he’d also gain valuable experience that could further along his development. If the Twins remain competitive, Gibson’s arm could also be a valuable piece down the stretch as the team competes for a playoff spot.
The Twins may be trying to limit the options that Gibson has on him and they may want to avoid bringing him up for that type of personnel related reasons; but no matter what the reason is for why they will not promote Gibson, the team is running out of excuses for why they are holding him back. Gibson is proving he belongs in the majors and it’d be discouraging to not reward his progress.
In the end, the Twins will do what is best for their team long-term and what is best for Gibson’s health and career long-term; but if the team remains competitive or if one of the starters in the rotation begins to falter, will the Twins finally give Gibson the promotion he deserves? For Gibson’s sake, I sure hope so.