DUNEDIN, FLA. – Kyle Gibson hasn’t added a pitch. But he hopes he is adding something to the best one he already has.
Gibson’s sinking fastball, which makes him one of the best ground ball pitchers in the American League, registered 94 miles per hour on the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium scoreboard several times Tuesday, and at least once hit 95. That’s a click or two higher than he averaged last season, and it came in a performance where he recorded seven of his nine outs (plus two of the Blue Jays’ three singles) on ground balls.
Can he throw that hard and still retain the pitch’s late break?
“I really would like to stay right around there, and I think I can. If I just maintain my body, keep a good workout regimen, there’s no reason I can’t,” Gibson said after giving up one run over three strong innings in the Twins’ 5-3 victory over Toronto. “Some of it is just getting out front and throwing to the bottom of the zone. Any sink at the top of the zone will flatten out, but if I stay out front, I can throw it 94, 95, and it’ll still sink.”
That’s a promising sign for a former first-round pick who the Twins hope is ready, in his third major league season, to take a big step forward. His mental strength is another sign, manager Paul Molitor said.
“What I liked most was that he had trouble with his first two righthanded hitters, but he got back in the zone,” Molitor said. “He was having a little trouble finding it, but he didn’t panic, he got through the first [inning], and he was much better from there on.”
Twins closer Glen Perkins felt fine Tuesday, but said his next throwing session will determine which path he will take as he recovers from soreness in his left side. He will either prepare to enter a game or have a magnetic resonance imaging exam to get to the bottom of things.
“If [Thursday] doesn’t go well then we’ll have an MRI,” Perkins said. “But right now, we’re going to give it a couple of days. I felt basically the same as Saturday when I came in. I don’t feel it until I get on the mound.
“We’ll see what happens when I throw.”
Former Twins knuckleballer R.A. Dickey got the start against his old team Tuesday. Lefthander Andrew Albers, who didn’t allow a run in his first two career starts for the Twins in 2013, threw a scoreless ninth inning for the Blue Jays. And first baseman Chris Colabello, who had a Twins-record 27 RBI last April, made the rounds during batting practice, hugging just about everyone he encountered.
“My legs are shaking a little bit coming out here and saying hello to people,” said Colabello, who was claimed off waivers by Toronto in December. “I have so many good memories with those guys.”
Twins two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana also is in camp with the Blue Jays, as are righthander Liam Hendriks and third baseman Danny Valencia, two former Twins traded for each other last season.
Tuesday was reporting day for minor league position players, so the Twins will hold their first full-squad organization workouts Wednesday. General Manager Terry Ryan said he doesn’t plan to make any cuts to the major league roster for a few days, however.
“If you send them down there, they are repeating their fundamentals,” Ryan said. “So we’ll hang on to them.”
Minor league exhibition games begin March 18.
After two long treks north, the Twins stay in Fort Myers on Wednesday to face the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat them 2-1 Friday. The pitching matchup is a rematch, too: the Twins’ Tommy Milone and Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi will be making their second start against each other.