Gibson replicates Santana's stellar game line

Gibson replicates Santana's stellar game line

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Kyle Gibson apparently took a page from Ervin Santana's dominant performance from the day before, as he had Santana's exact same pitching line in a 3-0 win over the Pirates on Saturday at CenturyLink Sports Complex.

Like Santana did against the Rays on Friday, Gibson tossed six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts while scattering three hits. It was a continuation of a strong spring for Gibson, who has a 1.53 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings.

"It was good. It was fun out there," Gibson said. "I had the fastball command going early, and I'm not sure what it was with pitch selection with [Kurt] Suzuki, but we ended up throwing off-speed a lot, and I had good command of that today."

Gibson on using breaking balls

It was also the first start for Gibson since he was told he'll be the No. 2 starter in the rotation, which sets him up to start in the home opener against the White Sox on April 11. Gibson, who has never pitched in a home opener, said he's looking forward to the opportunity to pitch the first game of the year at Target Field where the Twins went 46-35 last season.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Gibson said. "I think Twins fans are pretty excited about this year coming up, so it'll be pretty cool to be a part of those festivities on the mound. Hopefully, I can be the guy who has a good start in the first home game, and it sets us up for the rest of the year. We played really well at Target Field last year."

Twins manager Paul Molitor has been impressed by Gibson this spring, and Molitor said that while his fastball command could've been better against the Pirates, it was encouraging to see him succeed with his changeup, slider and curveball.

"I think it's important to learn what you need to do when you don't have your best pitch on a given day, and I think his fastball is his best pitch," Molitor said. "Today he found a way to mix it in with his slider, really good changeup and developing curve."

Worth noting

• Several regulars such as Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will be held out of action against the Yankees in Tampa on Sunday, but Molitor said he wanted to bring Byung Ho Park so he could face hard-throwing Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi. The Twins are trying to get Park at-bats against high-velocity arms heading into the year.

• Reliever Michael Tonkin, who struggled early in camp, has been pitching better recently, and tossed a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. He's now thrown three straight scoreless innings, but his ERA is still 7.88 in eight innings. Tonkin is out of Minor League options, so he'll continue to get a long look heading into Opening Day.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.