CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Right-hander Kyle Gibson said his performance against the Phillies on Thursday at Bright House Field was a throwback to his time in the Arizona Fall League. That's not a good thing.
"The main comparison between [Thursday and] that is just my fastball command," Gibson said. "Out in Arizona, my command of my fastball was just terrible, honestly."
Gibson struggled to locate his fastball and gave up six runs on eight hits, a walk and three wild pitches -- all fastballs -- over 2 1/3 innings in Minnesota's 10-6 win over Philadelphia. The Twins' No. 4 prospect, vying for a spot in the rotation, admittedly left too many pitches up and yanked plenty more, either badly missing the strike zone or teeing them up.
Manager Ron Gardenhire noticed Gibson's problem: He was trying to move the ball too much when he should have just let his fastball's natural movement do the job. Between catcher Chris Herrmann having a hard time seeing the ball and Gibson putting too much on his fastball, there were three wild pitches in the four-run second inning alone.
As is seemingly the case for all pitchers who struggle on the mound, Gibson felt fine warming up in the bullpen. But there might be more to that, as he noted that he's much less likely to overthrow during his pregame routine than he is once the adrenaline starts flowing in the game.
"I think right now I'm just getting myself into a spot where I'm trying a little bit too hard with my fastball and trying to do too much with it rather than letting it work," Gibson said. "I think sometimes in the bullpen I just get myself slowed down, and I actually am a little bit smoother. Then I get out there and I let it speed up on me a little bit."
There were a few positives, however. Gibson said that his offspeed pitches were some of the best he's thrown all spring, and he left the game feeling fine physically. But he has less than a month to claim a spot in the rotation, and March will be less about how he's holding up after Tommy John surgery and more about the competition.
"I think I'm to the point where I'm ... three weeks in and I'm kind of over the part of staying healthy," he said. "Now it's time to go out there and actually compete and be successful and win a job. The health part, that's kind of in the back of my mind now. I'm not really thinking about that any more."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.