FORT MYERS, Fla. – The joke going around the Twins clubhouse Friday was that Opening Day is more than a month away but Kyle Gibson already is 0-1.
Phil Hughes would not confirm who made the statement but said, “I did laugh at it.”
This is how Gibson was treated after losing his arbitration hearing on Wednesday, an example of how nothing is sacred in a major league clubhouse. But it also shows how teammates know Gibson won’t obsess over the outcome.
“Everybody in here understands that the sympathy is easy to give out in sarcasm,” Gibson said. “We all are very fortunate in here.”
The righthander said the hearing went as expected, with the Twins pointing out his negatives and his agent countering with reasons he deserves a raise to $4.55 million. In the end, the three-person panel ruled in favor of the Twins, so Gibson will earn $4.2 million this season.
It closes the book on a 2017 in which Gibson went 12-10 with a 5.07 ERA. He was demoted twice — his first extended stay at Class AAA Rochester since 2013 — but recovered to go 7-3 with a 3.76 ERA during the second half of the season. He acknowledged his solid finish to the season probably persuaded the Twins to keep him, rather than declining to offer a contract for 2018 and making him a free agent.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got a job. I’m surrounded by a lot of good people who care about me and I’m still going to make a great salary to play baseball,” he said. “It’s a win-loss situation that I’m still pretty satisfied with.”
Only five major league pitchers have posted a 20-save season after turning 41, something Fernando Rodney hopes to do for the Twins this year. Four of them — Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm — are in the Hall of Fame, or soon will be.
The fifth is in Twins camp, ready to help Rodney with his new team.
“It’s good to be in good company, isn’t it?” said LaTroy Hawkins, who was 41 when he saved 23 games for the 2014 Rockies. “But age is just a mind-set. Take care of your body, take care of your arm. You can’t think about your age, just about keeping on doing what made you successful.”
Rodney, who turns 41 on March 18, comes equipped with a weapon that will help a lot, said Hawkins, who saved 127 games in a 21-year career: “He’s got that changeup — it’s a killer. It’s a game-changer. If he can keep it, it’ll keep him pitching deep into his 40s. Having a dominant pitch like that helps you have longevity. It gives you something to fall back on when you really need an out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you can throw 94 [mph] like he can, too.”
LET’S MEET WILLIANS ASTUDILLO
2017 stats: .342 with a .928 OPS in 36 games for Class AAA Reno (Diamondbacks).
Acquired: Signed as a free agent to minor league contract.
Role: Competing to be backup catcher with Twins, or starter at Class AAA Rochester.
Did you know: The stocky Venezuelan, who signed at age 17 with the Phillies, might be the most difficult player to strike out in professional baseball. In eight professional seasons, and 2,154 plate appearances, he has struck out only 67 times, and never more than 20 in a season. Miguel Sano has never struck out fewer than 26 times in a month.
La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller