With Joe Mauer’s retirement, Kyle Gibson finds himself the senior member of our hometown team. And in a lot of ways, that’s fitting. Gibson’s career has included great promise, devastating injury, a surprising trip back to the minors and an equally surprising turnaround. He’s preserved through it all with honesty and humility.
Since debuting with the Twins in 2013, the 31-year-old starter has posted a 63-65 record with a 4.42 ERA, 791 strikeouts versus 365 walks and 1.39 WHIP. A 1st round pick back in 2009, Gibson was the franchise’s top pitching prospect when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011. He healed up and was a fixture in the team’s rotation from 2014-2016, but was sent to Triple A Rochester after a miserable start in 2017. The 6-6 righthander was eventually recalled and finished strong to help the Twins clinch a Wild Card berth. He posted a career best 3.62 ERA in 2018 and has been a reliable starter this year.
A pending free agent, I caught up with Gibson in the Twins clubhouse on Friday.
DZ: How would you assess your season from an individual standpoint so far?
GIBSON: It’s been okay. I feel like last year I did a little bit better job limiting damage in certain innings but overall my arm been feeling really good. The past probably four weeks have been a little trying because I feel like a lot of the outings I’ve executed a lot of pitches and really haven’t had a whole lot to show for it. I think against Boston I gave up 11 hits and maybe two of them were hit hard and then in Kansas City followed that up with another outing. So, it’s been a little frustrating, but trying to stay focused on the process and not worry too much about the results.
DZ: You tend to think those things will even out in the long run or…?
GIBSON: I hope so. I mean, I think my batting average on balls in play from what our advance guys are telling me is a little high so I’m hoping that yes, it does start to even out.
DZ: As a pitcher, does it make you feel a little more comfortable on the mound knowing you have such a high-powered offense behind you?
GIBSON: Yeah, I think our offense and our defense keep us feeling really comfortable about there. You know that, for the most part, one or two runs isn’t gonna beat you, so you can go out there and attack and, if you give up a solo homer, then it’s not a big deal. On top of that, with how our defense is playing, you can attack the strike zone and let them put the ball in play and we’re gonna make some really good plays.
DZ: Obviously right now you’re in a pennant race too. That’s just gotta make life a lot more fun around here.
GIBSON: No doubt, this has been a lot of fun to be a part of…Hopefully we don’t go back and forth from first to second into losing obviously but, Cleveland’s not going away and they’re a good team, so it’ll be fun.
DZ: By my calculations, you’re the senior member of the team right now. How does that feel?
GIBSON: A little different. Makes me feel a little bit like the old guy. I’ve been here since 2013 so it’s different to think of myself in that way, but it’s not really something I’ve put any more pressure on myself. We got a lot of veterans around here that have been around the game a lot longer than I have. Just so happens to be me who kinda maybe knows this area of the country a little bit best. I’ve been fortunate to be here and been happy to be a part of it.
DZ: Get the corner locker (which is the size of two lockers) too, right?
GIBSON: Yeah, that was kind of a surprise when I got here so that was pretty exciting when I found that out, yeah.
DZ: When you do have a rough outing, is it hard to go home and decompress and get some sleep?
GIBSON: I mean, I never sleep well after I pitch, but I try to leave everything at the field. I’ve got two kids and a wife that lean on me to be a father and a husband and, if I’m consistently taking what happens at the field home with me, then I’m not going to be as present or I’m not gonna be as good at what I need to be doing off the field. I really do try to leave it here at the field. When I walk out these doors, I leave it here and go home and try to be with them.
DZ: Can you talk a little bit about (pitching coach) Wes Johnson and the difference he’s made?
GIBSON: Yeah, his background with kinesiology and biomechanics brings a little different knowledge to the board and how he describes and explains what he sees. It’s been really good to kind of really break certain things down with him and then go with our advanced team and really work on some of that stuff. Sometimes it’s just a new voice that can help some guys, but I feel like, comparing him to (former pitching coaches) Garvin (Alston) and Neil (Allen) and even Rick Anderson, they’re all fairly similar personality and high energy guys. Just sometimes they say things a little bit different.
DZ: You’ll be a free agent after this season. Is that something that’s kinda exciting for you?
GIBSON: I try to not think too much about it honestly. Personally, I’d rather stay here and enjoy the next few years if that’s gonna be in their plans. We’ve got a lot to accomplish here before I get to that point. Hopefully, we’re playing right up to the free agent deadline and that I don’t have a whole lot of time to think about it. ‘Cause it’s something that, I feel like if I focus more on that, then I’m not going to be focusing on what’s going on here.
DZ: One last thing. What’d you do for the All-Star Break?
GIBSON: Went back to my house in St. Louis and hung out with some family and did a little odds and ends around the house. Did some brush-hogging and mowing with my daughter and son and let them play around outside.
See more of David Zingler’s 2019 athlete interviews:
July 10: Alaina Coates
June 25: Taylor Rogers
June 19: Ryan Eades
June 16: Jason Castro
May 18: Seimone Augustus
April 24: Ryne Harper
April 21: CJ Cron
February 2: Caleb Truax