They were rotation mates in parts of the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Texas Rangers. They became more than teammates, forming a pretty close friendship as well.
That friendship played out again over the winter when right-hander Kyle Gibson called another righty pitcher, Jordan Lyles. Gibson wanted to know about Lyles' experience pitching for the Orioles in 2022. That is because Gibson was closing in on signing with the Orioles to pitch for them in 2023.
“I think, for the most part I kind of knew that I wasn’t going to be back with Philly," Gibson recalled on a recent day at the Orioles' spring training camp. "Those few days the team has to talk to you and every team has that time where no one else can talk to them. Normally, if you don’t talk to the team then you’re not coming back,”
That led to Gibson to grab the phone and call his former Rangers teammate. Even though if he signed with the Orioles, he might be sort of taking Lyles’ spot in the rotation. He did and he, essentially, is.
Gibson said their friendship made it so that call was not awkward in any way.
“I think we are pretty similar people when it comes to personalities,” he explained. “And I think for the most part we are kind of similar on the field too. I don’t think he looked at it as like, ‘I can’t believe they are talking to Kyle and not me.’ Because we get along pretty well. I think, sure, that was a part of it, where I could be coming in and taking over his role on the team.
“But I feel like Jordan and I have a mutual respect where it’s like he wishes me well and I wish him well with the Royals, and I think for the most part we both knew we were going to have a job. Probably a little bit harder if this is the final job open and one of us is going to be out of work at the end.
“He was helpful. He’s awesome.”
And Gibson got the scouting report on everything Orioles, both on- and off-the-field aspects he was curious about. It was a glowing report from Lyles.
“I reached out and said, ‘Hey, the Orioles are a team I’m talking to, and I know you played there and would like to know what were some things that you liked about it?' I didn’t know too many people here. Just reached out and kind of got a feel, how he enjoyed the city, how he enjoyed the team, how he enjoyed working with Chris Holt and Brandon Hyde.
“Everything was such a positive that it made other conversations with the team and with front office staff, every step of the way, it backed up what Jordan said. And that’s big. Not that we don’t ever trust a front office, we do. But it’s somewhat of a sales pitch for what the team can bring. And when you have a player that went through it here and benefitted from being here and he really liked his time here, when you talk to a guy like that it really adds a lot.”
Gibson, 35, is a former first-round pick in the 2009 draft out of the University of Missouri who has registered a 4.52 career ERA and 1.385 WHIP in 10 big league seasons. He spent the first seven with the Twins, parts of the next two with the Rangers and parts of the last two with the Phillies.
Last season he had a 5.05 ERA in 31 starts with Philadelphia. But his ERA shot up in the last month of the season. Up to that point, he had quite a run from the start of the 2021 season through August of last year, a span that accounts for 90 percent of his starts the last two years.
During that run, when he made 55 total starts, he produced 33 quality starts, going 19-14 with a 3.87 ERA. His teams were 30-25 in that span. The batting line against him in the 55 games was .235/.305/.375/.680 and his WHIP was 1.21. His walk rate was 2.9 and strikeout rate was 7.5.
Now he hopes to bring some of that success to the Baltimore rotation. An O's rotation where this year one friend will be replacing another.
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