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Gibson making up for lost time in AFL

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's a day to celebrate for Kyle Gibson.

Tuesday, Oct. 23, is his 25th birthday. He's scheduled to make his third start on the mound for the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas. And he has been selected as the league's Pitcher of the Week after stellar efforts in his first two starts.

Everything seems to be falling into place for the 6-foot-6, 210-pound right-hander, who in September of 2011 had Tommy John surgery.

Gibson, the Minnesota Twins' first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Missouri, allowed six hits and one run while striking out eight with no walks in five innings in his Week 2 start. That came on the heels of a similar outing in his first start, when he struck out eight in five innings.

He is joined on this week's Arizona Fall League honor roll by Peoria teammate Donald Lutz, a first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, who was chosen Player of the Week.

A lot of pitchers take a year or more to come back from Tommy John surgery, but Gibson was back on the mound for the rookie Gulf Coast League Twins on July 10. He threw 15 pitches, got one batter on a grounder to shortstop, walked the second man and got the third hitter to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

Gibson pitched in nine games, starting seven, in the Gulf Coast League, then started twice for Class A Advanced Fort Myers and twice more for Triple-A Rochester. He pitched a combined 30 1/3 innings for those three teams.

"I'm feeling great," Gibson said Monday. "I learned a lot about myself in the [surgery rehab] process. It wasn't like I was alone. There are guys all over baseball who have had this done, even guys in the Twins' Minor League system."

The injury occurred two months before the surgery. He tried rest and tried throwing again to see if it improved, then he went through the same thing a few more times before deciding on surgery. He said there wasn't much fear, simply more frustration because he wants to do as much as he can even when he shouldn't.

"The Twins' [training] staff was real good about it. They put me on sort of a timetable, but I wasn't rushed. I feel really lucky. It's been 14 months [since the injury], where it could be 28 months with some people."

Believe it or not, he said his arm became stronger.

"I've still got the two fastballs [two-seam and four-seam], a sinker and a change, but they move differently, and the velocity is different. It went up a little," Gibson said.

He still throws in the low-to-mid 90-mph range.

"I have a slider, too, but that hasn't worked as well so far," Gibson said. "My change helps make up for it. It's funny. One day you can go out and a certain pitch won't work but the others will. Then the next time, it's the reverse. What it comes down to is that I want to be able to throw any pitch in any count."

Gibson was glad to be able to pitch in Triple-A toward the end of the 2012 season. He had pitched there throughout the 2011 season, making 18 starts and going 3-8.

"That was a big thing for me this year, to prove to myself I could still pitch against that type of competition," he said. "It's the same thing out here, going against the top prospects. They're quality hitters and they make adjustments, so I have to make adjustments."

There is some uncertainty about where Gibson might wind up when Spring Training begins. There was a point before his injury when he seemed to be on the fast track to the Majors. One of the factors in the Twins' decision will be how he pitches in the Fall League.

But does Gibson feel he is ready to be at the top level?

"Ask any player and they will tell you they are ready," he said. "When I started pitching again, I probably would have told you that I wasn't ready. Then I started to feel confident again like I was before.

"The Twins always have been up front about things, and they will tell me if I'm ready to go. If I'm not, we will figure this thing out. What I want to do is make an impact, be consistent. Stay up there, that's the goal. I don't want to be up for a few weeks and then back down for a few weeks."

He knows that when he reaches the top, it will be another day to celebrate.

Kyle Gibson