PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Kyle Gibson became the first Twins pitcher to throw five innings in a Grapefruit League game this spring Thursday, and the righthander looked sharp, allowing only four hits and one run in an 8-1 win over Tampa Bay at Charlotte Sports Park.
Gibson never allowed more than one hit in an inning, and for the third time in four spring starts, he didn’t walk a batter, though he hit former teammate Denard Span in the foot with a sinker. Gibson also struck out five Rays, four of them among the final five hitters he faced.
“I had one out and a guy on second base — that’s a situation where you want to try to get [a strikeout] if you can. To get two in a row [to end the fourth inning], that’s pretty fortunate,” Gibson said after lowering his spring ERA to 1.80. “You’ve got to get in strikeout counts first. We’ve talked a lot about that, not being in counts where you can get strikeouts. I feel like I did that and sequenced a little better today.”
The Twins’ gave him plenty of support, scoring three runs off Rays righthander Nathan Eovaldi, and adding another five, four of them unearned, off the Tampa Bay bullpen. Erick Aybar lined a two-run triple in the second inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Heisey.
Minnesota’s bullpen fared far better than the Rays’, combining for four shutout innings, with Tyler Kinley retiring all three hitters he faced and Ryan Pressly making quick work of his six hitters. Jake Reed walked a pair and gave up a hit in the ninth, but escaped without a run.
“Kinley got strike one on all the hitters he faced, which is big for him. Pressly kind of breezed,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Reed was struggling with his command, but got through it.”