CLEARWATER, Fla. – Kyle Gibson made a conscious choice on a full-count pitch to Rhys Hoskins on Monday. Actually, it’s an opinion he has been working on all spring.
“I’m trying to figure out which one I like least — walks or homers,” Gibson said after an impressive three-inning start against the Phillies that Hoskins rendered imperfect. “I really don’t like either of them. But if you’re going to [give them up], make the guy put the ball in play at least.”
Hoskins did, smashing Gibson’s second-inning fastball far beyond the wall in left-center, giving Philadelphia an early lead that turned into a 4-3 loss for the Twins at Spectrum Field. But the other 10 hitters that Gibson faced produced a big pile of harmless: two strikeouts, three routine fly balls (one of which Zack Granite lost in the sun, technically a double) and best of all, five weak ground balls, the product of Gibson’s signature sinker.
“It feels a lot better” than last year, Gibson said. “Early on [in spring training], I was really searching for the glove-side sinker. I had a live [session] with Ivan Arteaga [the Twins’ Class AA pitching coach] and really worked on it. He helped me switch the grip a little bit, and that’s when that pitch started turning the corner.”
It didn’t turn any corners vs. Hoskins, though. At 3-2, Gibson wanted to throw a slider, but he’s determined not to hurt himself with walks this year. It’s worked so far — Gibson hasn’t walked a batter in his five spring innings — but Hoskins was waiting on the sinker.
“In that situation, I’m just trying to make sure he earns his way on base,” Gibson said. “And he earned his way around all four.”
Tyler Kinley gave up an unearned run in the fourth inning, and Aaron Slegers gave up three consecutive hits to surrender two runs in the fifth, putting Philadelphia ahead 4-0. Rookie righthander Fernando Romero struck out all three hitters he faced.