Gibson getting stronger as Opening Day nears

Right-hander strikes out four over four scoreless innings in third spring start

Gibson getting stronger as Opening Day nears

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kyle Gibson put together his strongest outing of the spring on Sunday, and the Twins right-hander feels his offspeed stuff sharpening as he gets closer to the regular season.

Gibson tossed four scoreless innings in a 6-6 tie with the Cardinals on a hot afternoon at Hammond Stadium, with temperatures in the high 80s. In his third Grapefruit League start, he increased his workload to 60 pitches (39 strikes) while allowing two singles, no walks and one hit batter.

"I wouldn't call [those innings] easy," Gibson said. "It was a little different with the heat out there, a little different getting through the third and fourth innings. I made it a little harder on myself than I should have with getting behind some hitters."

He still faced only two batters over the minimum and struck out four, twice as many as in his first two starts combined. The 27-year-old got all but one of his outs via the strikeout or the ground ball, including one double play.

Outlook: Gibson, SP, MIN

Gibson, who struck out 5.4 batters per nine innings last year, wasn't reading too much into those results against a Cardinals squad featuring few regular starters. But he was feeling optimistic about his secondary pitches.

Gibson threw about 63 percent fastballs last year, according to BrooksBaseball.net, backing it up mostly with a slider and changeup while using his curveball only about three percent of the time. As he heads into the 2015 regular season, he feels all three pitches improving.

"The slider was probably about as good [today] as it's been in my three starts, so I was happy with that," Gibson said. "I've been trying to work on my curveball, and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. It's still pretty inconsistent but it's getting better as well. My changeup's been as I would hope it'd be against righties. … as long as I've got a good feel with it and I'm executing it down, I think it'll be a good pitch for me."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.