Something about a phenom pitcher seems to get fans riled up with anticipation. A hitter gets a lot of swings to prove whether he belongs in the majors. But a pitcher’s stuff is judged almost instantly.
When it comes to anticipated rookie debuts, though, the Twins often have been lacking. Their best pitchers in recent memory either lacked the electric pitches to woo audiences upon their arrivals or, like Johan Santana, slowly morphed from being useful to being dominant. That brings us to fireballer Kyle Gibson — slated to make his debut Saturday — and a handful of other pitchers who preceded him in the organization when it comes to stoking the enthusiasm of fans merely by their presence on a big league mound. Like Gibson, all of them were first-round draft picks:
• Eddie Bane: He was drafted No. 11 overall by the Twins in 1973, and later that summer he made his debut as the contending Twins looked for a solid outing — and a nice boost at the gate. The 21-year-old Bane pitched seven innings of one-run ball in front of nearly 46,000 fans at Met Stadium on July 4, getting a no-decision and a standing ovation. But the lefty wound up winning just seven games in the majors, all with the Twins.
• Willie Banks: The No. 3 overall pick in 1987 reached the Twins in 1991 after a 7-0 run over his final 10 Class AAA starts. He gave up three runs in six innings in a road victory over the Angels in his debut, causing then-manager Tom Kelly to say, “That was pretty exciting watching that young man pitch.” He finished his career with 33 victories, 16 with the Twins.
• Adam Johnson: The hard-throwing righthander was taken No. 2 overall in 2000 out of Cal State-Fullerton and made his Twins debut barely a year later for a squad battling for a playoff spot. He pitched six innings and gave up three runs in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis. He was pounded five days later in his home debut and won just one game in the majors.
• Matt Garza: Like Johnson, Garza made his debut at age 22, a year after being drafted. He was the No. 25 pick in 2005, then started for the Twins on Aug. 11, 2006. He was lit up for seven runs in two-plus innings, but he has gone on to have much better outings and seasons with the Rays and Cubs.