MILWAUKEE -- It could be anything: the height of the mound, the visual setting, the general comfort of home. Ron Gardenhire doesn't know, but he has still liked some of what he's seen when Kyle Gibson takes the mound on the road, where his splits are dramatically different than his numbers at Target Field.
"He's actually thrown the ball pretty well on the road for us a couple times and just can't stay away from the one big inning," the Twins manager said before Monday's game in Milwaukee. "We've said all along, he seems to be able to make a pitch at home and hasn't been able to figure that out yet on the road and having that one big inning where it hurts you. Now he has to figure out how to master keeping damage to a minimum when he gets into an inning where it's not going his way."
Gibson threw six shutout innings at home against Texas in his last start, bringing his home ERA to 1.85, with a 3-1 record and a WHIP of 1.18. That's dramatically different from his road numbers, where he entered Monday's start with a 1-3 mark and 7.77 ERA, plus a WHIP of 1.68. He allowed four runs in six innings against Milwaukee, dropping his ERA in road games to 7.39, but he fell to 1-4 in those starts.
"We like the way he's throwing the ball," Gardenhire said. "It's coming out of his hand really nice. Good angle, the whole package. "
Gibson missed all of 2012 after reconstructive elbow surgery, and though he struggled in 10 starts in 2013 with the Twins, at least one key split was reversed, with an 8.10 ERA in five home starts and 5.20 on the road. His lone quality start on the road in 2014 over five starts came in a brutal-luck no-decision against Cleveland, when he allowed no runs on two hits in a sparkling seven innings.
"It's a work in progress always with a young pitcher who's been out and missed time like he has, but I think he's handled himself really well," Gardenhire said. "He understands his mistakes a lot more now. He knows where he should have gotten the ball when he misses. It's just the process of growing as a pitcher."
Though he regretted not going with a sinker during a key at-bat against Mark Reynolds, who hit a two-run homer run for the Brewers in the fifth inning of Monday's 6-2 loss, Gibson felt locked in at Miller Park.
"We had a good plan today," Gibson said. "They were aggressive. The way the wind was, I kind of felt like my sinker would be moving down and in to righties and it was from the get-go, and I was able to make some pitches early."
It was a loss, but a step in the right direction.
"We haven't seen him snap too much or go crazy," Gardenhire said. "Some of those young pitchers, you see those eyeballs start floating all over the place and you can see things going around in their head. He's been real calm about it. He just sits back and thinks about what's he's doing. He talks to the catcher, talks to the pitching coach and realizes what he needs to do when he gets back out there."
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.