SARASOTA, Fla. – Maybe Kyle Gibson got his bad game out of the way before Opening Day rather than on it.
Named the March 30 starter this morning, Gibson surrendered a pair of three-run homers by the second inning and faced 14 batters. He was removed with two outs in the first and his pitch count at 36, re-entered and worked through the fifth.
Certainly not what Gibson wanted, but it threatened to be a whole lot worse.
Gibson was just four batters into his start – two singles, Oswaldo Cabrera’s home run and a double – when manager Brandon Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel walked to the mound. A chilling sight considering Gibson’s status in the rotation and John Means’ absence from it after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.
Ebel checked Gibson’s right hand, a warmup toss didn’t raise any further concerns, and the veteran kept pitching.
Gibson explained later that the nail on his index finger slipped off the ball and cut his thumb while throwing a slider to Kyle Higashioka.
“It’s happened before,” he said.
“It didn’t affect me at all. I think they saw me trying to bite the skin that was hanging off and they didn’t really like that, so they came out to check on me. But it didn’t affect anything. I feel fine.”
"I just saw he kept looking at his thumb after a few pitches," Hyde said after Josh Lester's walk-off double gave the Orioles a 7-6 victory. "A pitcher does that, they either have some sort of cut, abrasion, blister. Just trying to figure out what it was."
Gibson allowed six runs and 11 hits, and issued his first walk of the spring, against a Yankees lineup missing most of the regulars. He retired eight of the last 11 and threw 87 pitches.
"He pitched like a veteran," Hyde said. "A couple rough innings there, a high pitch count, but get through five, get his pitch count built up, which was huge. That was a big thing. Settled in. Hasn't had many rough innings honestly this camp, and to have a couple rough innings and then put three scoreless after that, he pitched like a guy who's been doing it for a while."
The Orioles turned double plays in the fourth and fifth before left-hander Keegan Akin replaced Gibson, who ended spring training with a 3.86 ERA in 18 2/3 innings.
“Honestly, too many times in my career I’ve given away innings when I was younger just by letting the first couple innings dictate the rest of the game,” he said. “In spring training you’ve got to get your work in, but you’ve still got a job in the regular season to get as deep as you can, and you’ve got to try to get to that 100-pitch mark if you can and try to save as much of the bullpen.
“Too many times when I was young those first two innings would affect me and I would have been out of there in the third or fourth, but we don’t really have much of a plan just yet. Obviously, we’re just trying to work on stuff, but you’ve got to settle yourself down, you’ve got to start executing pitches.
“That’s what they asked me after the second inning. I was like, ‘Well, if I just can execute a couple pitches here, I don’t really care what I’m throwing. I just want to throw it where I want to.’ That’s really all I did.”
DJ LeMahieu and Oswald Peraza singled in the first, Cabrera homered to left-center field, Higashioka doubled to left and the game was momentarily halted. Gibson struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa and retired Rafael Ortega on a lined to right, but Billy McKinney walked to again bring Hyde out of the dugout.
Minor league pitcher Phoenix Sanders stranded the runners, but the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in the second on three consecutive singles, the last an infield chopper. Cabrera lined to shortstop Jorge Mateo, who raced to the bag for a double play, but Higashioka homered to left for a 6-0 lead.
Kiner-Falefa struck out again, and Gibson retired six of seven batters. He threw 15 pitches in the second inning, 12 in the third and eight in the fourth, which began with Jake Bauer’s single and was followed by a double play.
“They were putting good swings on it,” Gibson said. “I don’t know that I had quite the execution that I’ve had in the past outings. … That’s what good hitters do, right? I felt like I was still working ahead. I had the walk but still was working well in the zone, and maybe a little too much of the zone at times.
“I felt good, stuff felt sharp, just probably not as good of location.”
Gibson started Opening Day for the Rangers in 2021 and retired only one batter, with five runs scoring in Kansas City. He’s trying to avoid a repeat March 30 in Boston.
“Healthy. That’s the biggest thing, right?” he said.
“You always want to start the season as healthy as possible. I think actually in the first couple innings I felt like I was moving down the mound as well as I had all spring. So body feels good and arm feels really good.”
* Terrin Vavra replaced Ramón Urías in the lineup, singled twice and made a diving stop and throw to deny Ortega leading off the third. He's 15-for-41 (.366).
Is there any way that he isn’t breaking camp with the team?
The Orioles scored twice off Yankees starter Yoendrys Gómez in the bottom of the third, on consecutive two-out singles by Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and Gunnar Henderson. Mountcastle’s hit made him 18-for-42 (.429) this spring.
Kyle Stowers fought off an inside pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth and punched a two-run double to left field. Frederick Bencosme lifted a sacrifice fly to right and Ryan McKenna singled to tie the game 6-6.
Mike Baumann entered in the ninth, allowed back-to-back singles, got a double play and a diving stop and long throw from Lester at third base, and turned in his fourth scoreless appearance in a row in his new short-relief role.
Akin maintained his spotless ERA with a scoreless sixth. Logan Gillaspie retired the side in order in the seventh. Mickey Gasper was hit by a Joey Krehbiel pitch leading off the eighth and Maverick Handley threw him out trying to steal.
Krehbiel hasn’t surrendered a run in his last six appearances.
* Mateo moved to center field in the sixth and played two innings before leaving the game, his first time at the position since 2021 with the Padres. He didn’t have a ball hit to him, but he’s been shagging them in batting practice the past few days.
“That feels great. That’s another opportunity I have to be on the field and I love it,” Mateo said.
“It’s been a long time, but I feel good. It’s not bad at all. … It’s easy to go in there and play.”
Hyde is experimenting with a roster that offers the flexibility to do it.
"You'll him him again," he said. "We're going to move guys around a little bit these last few days. Just never know what's going to happen when a season comes around."
Adam Frazier started in right field and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch.
"We're going to continue to be as versatile as we can and not surprise guys if it does happen during the season," Hyde said.
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