Twins righthander Kyle Gibson was locked in a 1-1 duel with Tigers righthander Michael Fulmer on Wednesday. Gibson wove his way in and out of danger for most of the afternoon until the strange fourth inning.
All of a sudden, Tigers hitters began to battle and at-bats took longer. Niko Goodrum finally belted a two-run homer to put the Tigers ahead for good.
Goodrum’s homer came right after a leadoff single by Victor Martinez, so Gibson was trying to get out of the inning with no further damage. He ended up throwing a whopping 34 pitches that inning — 11 of which were fouled off. Six of those foul balls came from Jose Iglesias before he flew out to end the inning. Trevor Hildenberger began warming up because the inning would not end, but didn’t enter the game until the seventh.
“We got someone up just because you don’t want to go past that 40-45 [pitch count] in any particular inning,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “A lot of three-ball counts. A lot of foul balls with two strikes.”
Gibson (1-3) continued to pound the strike zone and his pitches were lively, but he’s now winless in his past nine starts. There’s only a couple of pitches he would like back.
“It’s frustrating when we get beat by one swing,” Gibson said, “but you kind of got to debrief 15 to 20 minutes after the games and then start looking at the positives.”
A sweaty Michael Pineda smiled while giving the thumbs-up sign.
“Everything is good,” Pineda said.
Pineda threw off the mound, albeit for only 15 pitches, for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last July. The Twins signed him for a two-year, $10 million deal during the offseason, hoping to help him through his rehabilitation and reap the benefits next season.
Pineda has made enough progress that the club is optimistic he could pitch sometime in September.
“I will continue with the process,” Pineda said. “Two bullpens every week. And then we will see.”
Pineda will remain in the Twin Cities during this phase of his recovery.
After Joe Mauer was placed on the disabled list because of a cervical strain and concussion symptoms, former NL home run champ Chris Carter was signed to a minor league deal and assigned to Class AAA Rochester.
Some would wonder if the moves are related, but several Twins officials indicated that Carter came to them for very little (cash considerations) and the Red Wings could use some pop.
Molitor expressed the same sentiments following Tuesday’s game.
“We were able to add a little more protection,” Molitor said. “We really didn’t get into it, extensively. He wasn’t costly. [He’s] a guy with experience. Just see if it goes anywhere.”
Mauer was able to ride a bike and get through other light exercises Tuesday. He’s still out indefinitely because the concussion symptoms remain.
Carter’s arrival looks to be an indictment on the hitters at Rochester than at Target Field. Kennys Vargas is batting .204 with three home runs and 42 strikeouts in 38 games. Brock Stassi is batting .198. Leonardo Reginatto is batting .194 and Taylor Featherston is at .172. All have played at least 30 games.
The Twins received favorable reports from Trevor May’s outing for Rochester on Tuesday. He could be one start away from being activated from the 60-day disabled list.
In four innings, May gave up three runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts. His big mistake was a two-run home run given up to former teammate Trevor Plouffe.
“Didn’t get through five innings just because of long innings,” Molitor said, “But his pitch count was fairly close to where we wanted to get it. Pitched rather effectively. Velocity was sustained a little bit better than his previous outing.”
May has one more start scheduled for Sunday, then the Twins will decide if he’s ready to join the club.