"I've been out of the game almost three months," Gibson said after his outing. "It was nice to be back out there. It was real easy to have that good energy out there. When you can't do things, you realize taking it for granted just doesn't work."
Gibson seemed destined to be a top-10 pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, a big right-hander with an excellent collegiate resume at a big-time school who had gone 11-3 with a 3.21 ERA as a junior, racking up 131 K's against just 19 walks over 106 2/3 innings pitched. Concerns about a forearm problem, which turned out to be a stress fracture, dropped him to the Twins at No. 22. The sides didn't agree to a deal until the last possible second on deadline day, but Gibson became a Twins pitcher for a $1.85 million bonus.
Once signed, Gibson went straight into rehab mode. Recovering from the stress fracture, he wasn't allowed to throw for 8-10 weeks. To Gibson's credit, he didn't rush back into anything. He spent three weeks unknowingly pitching with an injury at Mizzou and he was determined to make sure he was completely healthy before getting back on the mound.
"He's been working hard, doing all the stuff he was supposed to do," Twins Minor League field coordinator Joel Lepel said. "I think he's been like this since he signed. We could tell he was patient with himself. He did what he could; he understood and I'm sure he was anxious. The patience paid off here. He looked very comfortable on the mound."
Gibson threw all three of his pitches -- fastball, slider and changeup -- during his outing, though the majority of those 29 pitches were heaters. Considering he'd only thrown off of a mound eight or nine times, mostly in bullpen work with a live batting practice session on Monday, he admittedly has a ways to go in terms of arm strength and command. But he reported that his arm feels completely strong and he hasn't had any forearm pain since he began throwing again.
"I don't think you can go out there worried and fearing what could happen," Gibson said. "If you're out there playing baseball worrying about hurting your arm again, that's not the right way to play."
Slowly, he's learning the right way to play according to his organization's philosophy. He got a good sense of it while participating in drills and working out. But nothing helps more than good old-fashioned competition, even if it's just in a relaxed setting like instructional league play.
"It felt really good. It's a dream come true," Gibson said. "I've been blessed. It's a great situation. It's a great club to be a part of -- they've got a lot of young pitching. It was time to put the uniform on and really feel a part of the team."
He should get a few more chances to feel that way before instructs wraps up. Not that the Twins are looking for any miracles this fall. They're just happy to see their first-rounder heading in the right direction.
"Down the stretch here, we'll pitch him when he's ready," Lepel said. "There's no hurry. We're not looking for the real Kyle Gibson right now. We're just trying to get him comfortable with the mound, comfortable with the Twins way and then he can show us what he's got next spring."