The Twins are utilizing Rochester’s staff on Saturday for a new fifth starter. While they’re at it, they will need a fourth starter, too.
Kyle Gibson, a fixture in the Twins rotation since his 2013 debut, pitched four more chaotic innings in a substandard season Thursday and provoked the team into taking action. His next start will be for the Class AAA Red Wings, he learned after an 8-5 loss to Oakland, and a current minor leaguer will take his spot.
“It’s not working. [He’s] putting us in a bad spot more times than not,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after breaking the news to the 29-year-old that he was being optioned out. “I still have faith in him, but we need to give him an opportunity to work things out.”
The Twins did that, of course, for the first month of the season, but the righthander’s frequent flops, summed up by his 8.20 ERA, became too much for them to endure. Fired up about a breakthrough year after adopting a new workout program and altering his throwing angle, Gibson was a disappointment from the start, never lasting six innings in any of his six starts, and never giving up fewer than three runs.
Thursday, as the Twins tried to solidify their surprising-but-temporary hold on first place in the AL Central, Gibson gave up eight hits and three walks in only four innings, all fraught with A’s threats. While Gibson didn’t give up a home run for the first time all season, three balls ricocheted off outfield walls.
“It was just too much turmoil,” Molitor said. “Those things aren’t easy to do, to tell a guy you have a lot of respect for, but I think it’s going to be best for him in the long run.”
In the short term, though, the Twins will likely call up a reliever Friday for this weekend, especially with Nick Tepesch, who gave up only three runs in three starts for Rochester last month, making his Twins debut on Saturday against Boston. If Tepesch were given another start next week, the Twins wouldn’t need to fill Gibson’s spot in the rotation until May 14.
Gibson, meanwhile, will head to upstate New York to work on getting ahead in counts, trusting his sinker and setting up hitters.
“I completely understand where they’re coming from. I understand they’ve got to make a change and I’ve got things that I need to work on,” he said. “It’s a whole lot easier to work on those in Triple-A than it is here when you’re trying to win games.”
Gibson wasn’t the only Twins pitcher having trouble Thursday, a fact that ultimately cost them their first three-game sweep of the A’s in five years. Tyler Duffey gave up a run on an infield hit, two walks and a sacrifice fly; Craig Breslow gave up a solo home run to Ryon Healy; and Ryan Pressly gave up two runs on Vogt’s bases-loaded double.
The Twins countered by continuing their homestand homer habit, blasting three more to give them a total of 10 in the series. Eddie Rosario and Danny Santana cracked solo homers in the second inning, and Eduardo Escobar added a two-run shot in the eighth.
The Twins even loaded the bases without a hit in the ninth inning against A’s closer Santiago Casilla, bringing Miguel Sano up with fantasies of his first career walk-off homer animating the announced crowd of 19,247.
But Sano took a big cut at a 3-0 pitch and fouled it off, took a weaker one at an inside fastball and fouled it again, then got fooled on a curveball, his check swing enough to ring up his fourth whiff of the game.
All the Twins could do was move on, or in Gibson’s case, move out.
“I’m not going down for a confidence boost,” Gibson said stoically. “I’ve got things to work on.”