The national media has spoken: 2015 will be the year of Kyle Gibson.
After notching 13 wins with the Minnesota Twins last season, while demonstrating plenty of room for growth, the former Greenfield-Central star pitcher has grabbed the attention of prognosticators across the baseball universe.
ESPN fantasy writer Tristian Cockcroft boldly predicted Gibson would see his strikeout total jump by at least 40 this season.
SB Nation’s Twins blog suggested Gibson has the tools to win 15-plus games and lower his ERA to around 4.00.
RantSports called him a prime breakout candidate.
And on and on it goes.
On his drive north to watch his son’s first start of the 2015 season in Detroit on Thursday, Harold Gibson discussed the growing consensus that his son is on the brink of stardom.
“The media attention is flattering,” the elder Gibson said. “It really is. It’s nice knowing people want to know how Kyle’s doing. But he can’t worry about any of that. He has just has to get on the mound and compete.
“At the end of the day, you’re only as good as your last start.”
The Daily Reporter will be tracking all of Kyle’s starts this season, as he looks to capitalize on the promise that helped him lead the Cougars to a regional championship in 2006 and that made him a first-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2009.
His journey toward fulfilling that promise began Thursday in Detroit.
Pregame: Scouting report
Other than opposing batters, Gibson’s toughest challenge this season will be winning his battle with consistency.
Last season was a roller coaster ride for the 27-year-old right-hander, as he dominated in some starts and struggled mightily in others.
FanGraphs’ Brandon Warne explains:
“In wins, Gibson had an 1.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 5.7 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). In losses, he had a 11.04 ERA, 1.96 WHIP and 4.8 K/9.”
The results were certainly mixed, but as Kyle Gibson told the Daily Reporter in November, last season was mostly about proving he could stay on the mound.
“I think it was important hitting that innings total,” said Gibson who pitched nearly 180 innings — the most of his career — three years after undergoing Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his right elbow. “That was something I was really excited about it.”
So, if step one was securing health, step two will be matching or besting those innings pitched, while improving his 4.47 ERA, boosting his modest strikeout total (107) and cutting down on his 57 walks.
In game: Tough luck
“My goodness, this is not Kyle Gibson’s day.”
It was only the middle of the second inning when Minnesota Twins’ TV play-by-play broadcaster Dick Bremer uttered these words, and unfortunately for Gibson, it did not get better from there.
Gibson (0-1) survived just 3.2 innings in his 2015 debut Thursday. He gave up six runs on eight hits and five walks, as the Twins lost their third straight in Detroit, 7-1.
Though Gibson clearly was not at his best — he issued a career-high five walks — Lady Luck did him no favors.
In the bottom of the first inning, Tigers’ leadoff hitter Anthony Gose flipped a jam-shot fly ball into shallow centerfield that landed between three Twins defenders for a double.
Gibson then walked Ian Kinsler, coaxed a fly out from all-world hitter Miguel Cabrera and then issued another walk to Victor Martinez to load the bases.
Needing to make a great pitch to get out of trouble early, it looked as though Gibson had delivered. But J.D. Martinez’s lazy flyball into centerfield somehow found room to land, and the Tigers’ first run crossed the plate.
Yoenis Cespedes then bounced a soft chopper through the hole on the left side of the infield to score another run, and that was the extent of the damage in the first with the Twins down 2-0.
The second inning played out in a similarly. Gose reached on a cheap base hit, Gibson issued another free pass, and the Tigers pushed a third run across the plate.
The decisive blow to Gibson’s day came in the fourth inning off the bat of J.D. Martinez. Shortly after inducing a double-play and looking like Gibson might escape another inning with minimal damage, Martinez connected with a belt-high fastball and deposited it over the right-field fence.
And with that, his day was over. Twins manager Paul Molitor took the ball from his starter, and a long-faced Gibson walked slowly back to the visitor’s dugout.
In the locker room after the game, Gibson told the media he thought he pitched well early on.
“Really, in the first couple of innings I executed a lot of pitches,” he said. “They were just putting in play, and obviously I walked too many guys. With the walks, I didn’t give myself a chance for them to start hitting bloops at people.”
The best advice Gibson could heed right now is something his dad said before the game.
“Pitchers have to have amnesia,” said Harold Gibson, a Greenfield-Central assistant baseball coach. “I heard that the other day on TV … and I really think that’s the best thing any pitcher can do. Just have amnesia. Forget about the last start, no matter what happened.”
Despite the rough outing, Gibson still managed to find a way to make his parents’ and hometown fans proud.
As the St. Paul Pioneer Press’s Mike Bernandino Tweeted this shortly after the game:
“Class move by Kyle Gibson to cut short his dinner and conduct his interview with a frazzled press corps on rain-marred getaway night.”
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson did not enjoy the 2015 season debut he was hoping for. The former Greenfield-Central star failed to make it out of the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers Thursday eveing before being relieved. Here is Gibson’s pitching line for the day.
Gibson’s next scheduled start is Wednesday at home against the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals. Gibson has had great success against Kansas City in his career, going 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA over 13.1 innings.