Gibson, Slama to avoid Tommy John surgery

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson was diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, and will head to Fort Myers, Fla. this week to begin strengthening and flexibility exercises of the right shoulder and elbow, according to general manager Bill Smith.

Gibson is expected to avoid Tommy John surgery for now, as the estimated return for him will be determined after the initial phase of his rehab program.

Fellow Triple-A Rochester right-hander Anthony Slama was also diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow, and will head to Florida to begin his rehab process along with Gibson.

Both pitchers underwent MRIs last week and met with team orthopedists, Dr. Dan Buss and Dr. John Steubs, on Monday, before undergoing further testing on Tuesday.

Gibson, 23, was originally placed on the Minor League disabled list with soreness in the flexor muscle area near his elbow and underwent an MRI on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is the 33rd-ranked prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Twins’ system, according to MLB.com.

Gibson, the club’s first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had been struggling recently, as he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in eight starts over June and July. It came after he entered June with a 3.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 55 innings.

Slama, meanwhile, was placed on the Minor League disabled list on July 6 because of elbow soreness. The reliever posted a 2.92 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 37 innings with Triple-A Rochester before his injury. The 26-year-old also tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings with the Twins this year in a brief stint with the club from late May into early June.

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