Gibson looking to implement curveball more

Gibson looking to implement curveball more

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- While it's not a new pitch for Kyle Gibson, the right-hander is making it an emphasis to incorporate his curveball more this season to keep hitters honest.

Gibson threw his curveball 3.7 percent of the time last year but wants to throw it roughly twice as much this season, and he made a conscious effort to throw it more in his spring debut on Sunday against the Rays. Gibson tossed two scoreless innings, allowing two hits in a 5-4 win, and he came away pleased with the progress of his breaking ball.

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"I've been working pretty hard on my curveball and getting that release point," Gibson said. "Hopefully I can make that a viable pitch for me this year. And not just like two times a game. I feel like it's a pitch I can double up, but it's all about me commanding it."

Gibson actually did double up on the pitch against Desmond Jennings, throwing it for strikes on back-to-back offerings. Gibson joked that regular catcher Kurt Suzuki wouldn't have called for two straight curveballs knowing Gibson's usual repertoire, but John Ryan Murphy, who was acquired by the Twins this offseason, didn't know any better.

"Two in a row is kind of an achievement for me," Gibson said with a laugh. "So that's good. Maybe I can build on it next time."

Twins manager Paul Molitor said he's happy to see Gibson continue to make adjustments as he now enters his third full season as a starter. He's coming off a solid 2015 that saw him post a 3.84 ERA in 194 2/3 innings, but the Twins feel he's primed for a breakout year, and the curveball could be an added wrinkle to go along with his sinker, slider and changeup.

"I think it's just trying to elevate what he already does," Molitor said. "He mixes them in occasionally. Like for a first-pitch strike or get guys to chase, but I think he likes his slider more. So now he not only wants to try to throw it more often, but see when it works best such as different counts and situations."

Worth noting

Eduardo Nunez, who awkwardly stepped on first base while running through the bag in Saturday's game, was able to play without any issues on Sunday. Molitor joked that Nunez made a "miraculous recovery." Nunez went 1-for-2 while starting at third base.

• Closer Glen Perkins made his second appearance of the spring, allowing an unearned run in one inning. Molitor said he's been monitoring Perkins after his back issues in the second half of last year, but he's been fine.

"He's been healthy," Molitor said. "I don't really watch the radar too much early, but he's throwing it and using his pitches. He's just focused on getting his work in and building up arm strength."

• Lefty reliever Aaron Thompson struggled in the ninth inning, allowing three runs before right-hander Jake Reed was called on with the tying run at the plate. Reed gave up a hard liner to left but Darin Mastroianni made a running catch to end the game.

"It was a good play to end the game," Molitor said. "We were playing no doubles so we were playing back a little bit, which helps. And the wind was blowing in a little bit. That ball was scalded, but we found a way to hang on there."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.