MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson has a few extra days to get his ticket requests in order before making his major league debut on Saturday. That’s probably a good thing, because the requests from friends and family have been rolling in left and right.
Gibson said Thursday that he has between 25 to 30 people on the pass list and expects an extra 15 or so outside of that. There are others he probably won’t be able to provide tickets for.
It will no doubt be a memorable occasion for Gibson’s family on Saturday when the 2009 first-round pick takes the mound in a Twins uniform for the first time. They’re not the only ones, however, that have been waiting for this day to come. Fans in Minnesota have wished for Gibson to be called up for a few years now and finally got their wish when the Twins recalled him from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday.
The early call-up has allowed Gibson a few days to acclimate to his new surroundings. He joined the Twins in Miami as they took on the Marlins for a brief two-game series. He’ll be able to watch Thursday and Friday’s games from the Target Field dugout as he watches the Kansas City batters he’ll be facing on Saturday.
“I just got told on Sunday night that I was heading up on the off day,” Gibson said Thursday, his first day at Target Field since his call-up. “I was pretty excited and thankful, honestly, because the last couple days have been really good just kind of getting acclimated, not having to rush around and get your gear ready and making sure family can get up here and organized and everything.”
Gibson, 25, earned a promotion to the majors after going 7-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 15 starts for Rochester. Minnesota wanted him to pitch more consistently, which he did in his last several starts. Over his last four outings with the Red Wings, Gibson was 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
As important as it was for Gibson to be consistent to get to the majors, it will be equally important for him in order to stay here.
“Being consistent and constant consistency on the major league level is going to be a different thing,” he said. “I’m going to have to make sure I’m always attacking the zone and always getting ahead of hitters because for the most part whenever I struggle it’s because I’m getting behind and I’m having to throw balls over the middle of the plate rather than staying on the halves.”
When Gibson was taken out of Missouri with the 22nd pick in the 2009 draft, Twins fans hoped he would be able to help Minnesota’s starting rotation in the not-too-distant future. Instead, Gibson suffered a setback in 2011 while at Rochester when he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. That put his big league dream on hold for another year as he rehabbed the surgically repaired elbow.
More than a year removed from his surgery, Gibson had a chance to break camp with the big league team this spring but struggled in Fort Myers and began the year back at Triple-A. After hitting a few bumps in the road early this season, Gibson started to figure things out. He pitched a shutout on May 8 and did the same two starts later on May 19.
“He’s got great stuff,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He pretty much did what he had to do down there to force his way up here, which was a good thing. It took a while, but this is a patient organization. We’re glad we got him.”
It’s uncertain which Twins catcher will be behind the plate when Gibson debuts on Saturday. Catcher Joe Mauer has only seen Gibson a few times during spring training, but even in that limited exposure to the 25-year-old right-hander, he’s seen that Gibson has what it takes to pitch in the majors.
“He looks like a starter, 6-foot-6, big frame, good sinker,” Mauer said. “He’s got good stuff. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’ll be fine.”
For Gibson, it’s now about calming the nerves on Saturday when his family, friends and the rest of Twins Territory watches him with a close eye. The expectations are big for the former first-round pick, especially as Minnesota’s starting pitchers have struggled as of late.
This has been Gibson’s dream since he was little, though. Now it’s finally time for him to live that dream.
“I’m not really sure when I started thinking it was realistic, but I always dreamed of doing it,” Gibson said. “It’s just been one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do. My dad played baseball and coached baseball. Ever since I was a kid, this was what I was working for.”