Friday, Kyle Gibson will make an Independence Day start against the New York Yankees at Target Field for the second straight year.
When the hitters of baseball’s most famous franchise step into the batter’s box to face the Minnesota Twins’ starter, they’ll be encountering a far different pitcher than they did in 2013, when the Yankees touched up the Greenfield-Central product for 11 hits and eight runs in five and a third innings.
The 26-year-old right-hander has the same name. He still stands six feet, six inches tall.
But Gibson is more confident in himself, in his pitches and in is place in the major leagues – and it’s showing, as Gibson has recently flashed his potential through a 22-inning scoreless streak, the sort of dominance locals grew accustomed to seeing during Gibson’s days as a Cougar.
“I’m a little more comfortable out there. I’m more used to it. I know I’m executing better, which helps,” Gibson said after Minnesota’s 4-0 loss to Kansas City Wednesday. “That was a part of my problem last year, I wasn’t executing when I needed to. I’ve been more accustomed to situations and been a little more prepared.”
Gibson takes a 7-6 record and a 3.77 ERA – the latter represents nearly a three-run improvement from his 2013 ERA in 10 starts – through 16 starts into Friday.
In spring training, Gibson was focused solely on winning the No. 5 spot in the Twins’ rotation. Instead of proving he simply belongs in the big leagues, Gibson has thrived.
Gibson has recorded six starts of throwing between six and eight scoreless innings while boasting an opponents’ batting average of .239, the 15th-best mark in the American League. With a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 1.4, he’s tied with Minnesota closer Glen Perkins as the club’s second-most valuable pitcher behind starter Phil Hughes (3.1 WAR).
Gibson’s improvement has been noticeable to the rest of the AL, including the man who was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 World Series.
“That kid, that pitched for them today, wow,” Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said to reporters after Gibson struck out eight during seven shutout innings in the Twins' 2-1, 10-inning loss at Boston on June 18. “He’s very impressive. For a young kid to have that sense to know what he’s doing and spotting his pitches the way he did, very impressive. This kid was spotting every pitch he threw. That’s why he did so well.”