Friday, September 2, 2011

Gibson could follow in Strasburg's footsteps

The rehab process for Kyle Gibson did not work out as well as the Twins had hoped. The team announced yesterday that top pitching prospect Gibson will undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also known as Tommy John surgery. Gibson had been in Fort Myers, Florida at the team's training facility but the rehab process, which was a long-shot to begin with, has not worked out for the 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher.

The surgery will take place next Wednesday in New York City under the care of Dr. David Altchek. He is the same doctor that performed Tommy John surgery on Joe Nathan at the beginning of the 2010 season. The estimated rehab time for this major surgery is 12-18 months so that means fans will most likely not see Gibson on a mound again until Spring Training in 2013.

This is a tough blow to a team that seems to have everything going wrong for it this season. Gibson was expected to be a member of the Twins pitching staff by this point in the year. Now the team will be anxiously wait while he spends time getting back to the dominant form he has shown during stretches in the minor leagues.

In recent weeks, Stephen Strasburg has seemed to become the poster boy for successful Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is the former number one overall pick in the the same draft as Gibson and he had the surgery at about the same time last season. On the road back from the injury, Strasburg has looked dominant in his minor league outings and has pushed his way back to the majors in 12 months. He will be making his return to the big leagues in the next week so there is hope that Gibson could be back earlier than expected.

In 2010, Gibson was dominant as he moved through every level of the Twins farm system. He started the year with Fort Myers and he ended the year in Rochester, a step away from the big leagues. The Twins invited him to his first big league camp this spring and he caught the attention of the coaches with his ability on the mound. The Twins already had too many starting pitchers so Gibson was sent to Rochester for some more seasoning. There were some struggles this season at Rochester with Gibson going 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in June and July.

The highlight of the season for Gibson could have been his appearance in the MLB Futures Game during All-Star weekend in Arizona. He looked impressive on the mound against some of the brightest prospects in the minor leagues. On a national stage, Gibson was able to show Twins fans a glimpse the near future. Now that future is an extra year away with Gibson scheduled to go under the knife.

The most important thing is to get Gibson back to health and as the Twins saw with Joe Nathan, the process can be grueling at times. The next year is going to be a tough journey for Mr. Gibson but he has the ability to fight through it and come out a stronger person on the other side. The Twins are losing a starter for next season but the hope is that they will gain a stronger starter with a determined mindset for the 2013 campaign.

Many Twitter prayers have been sent the way of Gibson in the last 24 hours and they will keep coming in as the surgery approaches. I have been fortunate to have a couple conversations with Gibson in the last year. He was very respectful and he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say to him.

Gibson is just a good person and seeing him succeed is something that every fan of baseball should be cheering about a year from now.

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