CLEVELAND – If the season is on the line Sunday against the Royals, the Twins’ most reliable starter wants the ball.
Righthander Kyle Gibson has raised his hand for the assignment, and made a case to be the choice Wednesday by pitching six shutout innings in Game 1 of the doubleheader. He gave up four hits, walked two and tied a career high with nine strikeouts. His only problem was that rookie Francisco Lindor was 3-for-3 against him and stole two bases.
Gibson threw 104 pitches, 62 of them strikes. As a sinkerballer, he is the type of pitcher who can come back on short rest not experience a large drop-off. And Twins manager Paul Molitor is leaning toward Gibson if the game is meaningful.
“We have mentioned it and I’m open to it,’’ said Gibson, who is 11-11 with a 3.84 ERA and team-high 194 ⅔ innings pitched. “All he has to do is tell me I’m starting on Sunday and I’ll be ready.’’
Gibson said he pitched on short rest while at the University of Missouri and several times while in high school. He probably would eschew his normal between-starts bullpen session for a shorter one Saturday, then take the ball Sunday.
“I’ll be honest with you,’’ Gibson said. “With how I’m feeling, I’m pretty excited about it.’’
Milone to start Saturday
After a solid emergency outing, lefthander Tommy Milone is getting another chance.
The Twins named Milone the starter for Saturday’s game against Kansas City at Target Field. The assignment comes after Milone, filling in for an ill Phil Hughes on Monday, gave up two runs over 5 ⅔ innings in a 4-2 Twins victory.
Hughes, available to pitch out of the bullpen, still is not 100 percent, which might have played a part in the decision. Another factor likely was that the Royals are only 28-27 against lefthanded starters.
Milone, 9-5 with a 4.04 ERA, looked as if he had lost his spot in the rotation when he reported shoulder fatigue after a Sept. 17 start. He didn’t receive clearance to pitch out of the bullpen until last weekend in Detroit. But Hughes became ill, and Milone took advantage of his second chance.
What will happen with Hughes? The righthander was available out of the bullpen Wednesday and pitched an inning in the nightcap. Molitor wanted as many arms available for the doubleheader.
“I talked to him this morning and told him that, right now, we’re going to plan to pitch Milone on Saturday,’’ Molitor said. “I know Phil is feeling a little better. He’s not 100 percent.’’
If the Twins are not in the running for a postseason spot, Hughes could start the season finale Sunday.
If what was a big boost to the bullpen Wednesday, righthander Trevor May was available for duty.
May has been slowed for over a month because of sore lower back. He has appeared in only four games since Sept. 9. But he told Molitor before the doubleheader that he would be able to pitch an inning.
“Two games would be out of the question,’’ Molitor said.
• Righthander Trevor Bauer will start for the Indians on Thursday instead of Josh Tomlin. It will be Bauer’s first start since Sept. 13. He has pitched one inning since then.
• Joe Mauer’s home run in the first inning of Game 1 was his 10th of the season, giving him five seasons of double-digit home runs.
• Byron Buxton had an RBI single and a solo home run in Game 1. All six of his RBI this season have come on the road.