Rocco Baldelli has been the most dedicated spinner of the positive that I’ve encountered in the office of a professional manager or head coach in decades of covering sports in the Twin Cities.
Kyle Gibson’s effort on Thursday night was so brutal that it even turned Baldelli into a critic, at least from what was available in game stories from the Twins’ 8-5 victory over Kansas City.
The masses have been ripping Gibson as a “nibbler’’ for weeks, if not years. The postgame quotes from Baldelli offered strong validation, after Gibson finished a five-out start with three consecutive walks (and four total).
“I don’t know if it was necessarily command, or just getting the ball on the plate,’’ Baldelli said. “The question really is, ‘Are we aiming in the zone? Are we trying to attack in the zone or not?’ ‘’
The public answer for that with Gibson has been “not,’’ and that became the manager’s answer on Thursday night. And when Rocco’s not sugarcoating, you know there’s frustration with all members of the Twins’ brain trust.
Gibson had his best season with the Twins in 2018. Then, he lost over 20 pounds from E. coli picked up on a charitable mission to Haiti over the winter, gained back most of that, and lost it again due to colitis that struck shortly around the All-Star Game.
The previous six starts ranged from mediocre to lousy (with lousy having the advantage), there was a stay on the injured list, and Thursday was Gibson’s opportunity to get back in the picture for a postseason start.
Baldelli had attempted to be optimistic about Gibson in a conversation on Wednesday. You would expect no less. Heck, Rocco wouldn’t even allow himself to take a public shot at Michael Pineda, after the large righthander put the Twins in this rotation crisis with his 60-game suspension for the use of a substance banned by MLB.
But Thursday … Gibson pushed Mgr. Positive over the edge.
“Are we aiming in the zone? Are we trying to attack in the zone or not?’’
The correct answer is: ‘’Not.”
Gibson still looks emaciated to me. But when you’re the senior member of a team, as well as the rotation, and you say you’re feeling good to pitch, and you want to earn a first postseason appearance of your career – a manager and a team has to give you that shot.
Desperate though the Twins are without Pineda, I don’t think there’s much Gibson could do in a start next week to fill the decisionmakers with confidence to give him a turn against the Yankees or the Astros in the first round of the playoffs, not after Thursday’s abomination.
Remembering there’s no chance the Twins will want fly-ball pitcher such as Odorizzi facing the Yankees in New York, the rotation for a best 3-of-5 figures to fall like this:
Game 1-Jose Berrios. Game 2-Martin Perez, with a quick hook and heavy bullpen use. Game 3 (at Target Field)-Jake Odorizzi. Game 4-“Opener’’ and/or bullpen game. And back to Berrios if there’s a Game 5.
The Twins will be large underdogs to the Yankees, but there’s a bit of hope that they can do damage vs. New York’s rotation. If they are down in the sixth inning and have to beat the Yankees’ bullpen, well, “See ya in Fort Myers,’’ as an astute Twins’ follower often says (although usually in July in this decade, not October).
As for Houston … it would be nice to win one and stop that 13-game postseason losing streak that dates to Game 2 of the 2004 division series vs. the Yankees.