by Christopher Fee of TwinsDaily.com
Entering his fourth professional season, Rochester Red Wings pitcher Kyle Gibson is hopeful that this is the year he gets his chance to pitch in Minnesota. Currently listed as Baseball America’s #68 ranked prospect in their 2013 Top 100 Prospect list, and #5 on their organizational list, it’s safe to say that there are high hopes this year for the future Twins right-hander. After batting practice on Monday, I had the chance to talk about his rehab, his expectations, and what exactly is happening with the Wings so far this year.
CF - Can you talk a little bit about how the team is doing this year? Not the start you guys had hoped for coming out of the spring.
Kyle Gibson – I think the last four or five games is a better indicator of how the team is. We lost two to these guys (Pawtucket) at their place, I think it was a 1 to 1 ball game going into the sixth. Even yesterday (Sunday’s doubleheader) the one that we lost, it was a 1-0 game going into the sixth. If you look at the last four or five games we’ve played, we are a lot different team then when we started. We are starting to click a little bit, we are a little bit more comfortable up here. I think the offense is starting to hit their stride, and the bullpen has been really good, so that always helps.
CF -Obviously it’s not just one thing, but you guys had a pretty good spring training, do you take that with a grain of salt? Or do you think that’s what we could be?
KG – I think spring training was the indicator of how good the team can be. Our offense was really good. Our pitching threw pretty good, I think all of us coming up here thought we were going to keep it rolling. I think for whatever reason we had those games where our offense would struggle, and so would our pitching. We would have games where our pitching would do well and our offense would struggle or vice versa. Spring training is a whole lot different, you have the lineups shuffling a little bit more, there’s a lot less pressure on the situation.
Right now we’re starting to find that lineup that’s working for us. One of the things that always hurts Triple-A is the movement up and down from the big leagues. You always have new guys coming in so that shuffles it up a little bit, which makes AAA a little bit different than every other level.
CF - What was 2012 like for you as a player? You moved around a lot, still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, what was it like to basically have to rebuild?
KG - I think it was a good process for me. You never want to have to go through an arm rehab program, but I think at the end of the day I’m mentally and physically stronger for it. I think at the end of the year being able to come back up to Rochester for a few start was pretty big, to get back up against this level of competition. Even though I didn’t have that much success, to be able to come back up here, I felt strong being back up here. The Arizona Fall League was a good experience as well, kind of the same as here. I was facing good prospects, faced a lot of guys on this team (Pawtucket), and all throughout the International League. I got a lot of good experience against a lot of good players.
CF - How much of rehab is mental as well as physical?
KG - Good question, if I could say 100 percent and 100 percent I would. I would say getting over the injury is more mental than physical. You do a lot of physical work, but at the end of the rehab, you get to the point when it’s time to let it go, and it’s time to move on from the rehab, and that’s where the mental part comes in. For me, I was able to do that okay because I had an elbow surgery before. My first outing in extended, I was like, here’s a four-seamer, throw it as hard as you can, you get past that and that’s what helped me.
CF - Are you on any sort of innings cap that you know of? Or are you and the team just kind of taking it as it goes?
KG - When they sent me down in Spring Training, Terry Ryan told me to go down there and pitch. We aren’t going to baby you this year, we are going to let you go down there and throw and see what happens. I’m sure if I come up sore or tired later on in the season, we might rethink it, but as of right now I don’t have too much information on it.
CF - So far you’ve had a couple of strong starts, but in the later innings you seem to struggle a little bit, what do you credit the good start to?
KG - I’m getting closer to where I want to be. Pitch-wise, I think I still have some work to do mentally. Just like yesterday (Sunday), I have the stuff that I want to have and for whatever reason I lose it in the 6th inning, and I start to lose it for them. I think there are some positives and negatives to it, my last two starts I’ve felt really good, but I’ve let the other team sneak into some situations where I shouldn’t have. I walked away from a start yesterday thinking, wow I gave up four walks and gave up three hits, I kind of beat myself up there. That’s one thing to make it to the next level I can’t do.
CF - Would you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher, or more of a groundball pitcher?
KG - I would consider myself a ground ball pitcher that can get strikeouts when I need to, how bout that? (laughs) One thing with the surgery, and the velocity that I have, I think it’s allowed me to use strikeouts a little more, even strikeouts with my fastball. That’s something that I’ve never done too well, I think the added sharpness to my pitches due to the rehab from the surgery has really helped me out with that.
CF - Is your fastball your “out pitch”?
KG - Yeah, I think it can be now. Before it was a little bit slower, 88-92 MPH, and I don’t think it was as much of an out pitch. I think if I need a ground ball double play or I need an out, that’s a pitch that I can go to now.
CF - Can you compare where you are now to where you were two or three years ago? As a pitcher, and a clubhouse guy?
KG - I think age, and the process that I went through, has definitely matured me baseball-wise. I think as a pitcher, in certain aspects I’m better, and in certain aspects I’m not as good. The aspects that I’m working on are making sure that I’m mentally focused, and not beating myself. Before surgery I didn’t walk anybody, walks are just something that I hated to do, I still hate to do it I just haven’t been able to control it as much. I know how to use my stuff now, once I can consistently learn to use it the right way, that’s where I want to be as a pitcher.
As a clubhouse guy, it’s different. We have a pretty veteran team here, where a couple of years ago I may be in the middle of the pack age wise. I think the veterans here are definitely doing a good job, especially pitchers like P.J. Walters and guys that have been around and have been in the big leagues are doing a good job pointing me in the right direction to help me grow as a player.
CF - What is it like knowing that you’re just one phone call away from being called up to the Twins?
KG – I mean there’s a lot of pressure in this situation, but at the same time we all know that we’re in a pretty good spot. I think the hardest part is not to think about that, and to go out and just try to win the game today. The more I’m able to focus on going out and winning that day the better I am, because I’m not thinking about, when that call might come? How it’s going to be? And the excitement that I’m going to have.
CF - What are your goals for the rest of the season, for your team and yourself?
KG – I think one thing we’ve struggled with in Rochester is having a full season of being really successful. We were .500 last year, but I think we want to be a lot better than that. The fans deserve a team that goes out there and wins 85-90 games, and go to the playoffs. I’d like to make it to the big leagues as fast as possible as well. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a goal of making it to the highest level possible, for as long as possible. I’m going to try to get better and keep developing and hopefully make it up there at some point this year.
Chris Fee is a freelance writer from Rochester, NY. He is currently contributing to Twins Daily, and his work has appeared at Bus Leagues Baseball as well as Bucky's Fifth Quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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