Despite this being one of the most unpredictable offseasons for most Major Leaguers, Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson said it was the most normal one he’s had in years.
In 2018, Gibson was sidelined most of the offseason with an E. coli diagnosis, and he struggled with ulcerative colitis in '19. Now mostly healthy, he got back to lifting around November to prepare for the '21 season.
“I don't know that I've felt this physically ready for Spring Training since going into 2018,” Gibson said on Friday. “I had to make do with where I was at, but this year, I definitely feel different. I feel like the workouts have allowed me to prepare physically in a different way.”
Gibson will likely be the Rangers' Opening Day starter, even after posting the second-highest ERA of his career -- 5.35 -- last season. He said it’s hard to tell if the pandemic-altered year is what had an effect on him, but he admitted that he struggled to pitch with two outs early in the season. Gibson said he also believes he could have gotten into a groove during the back half of the season if it had been a full 162 games.
Texas manager Chris Woodward said Gibson looked much better in his first spring bullpen session than he had all of last season, both physically and mentally. Gibson worked on the tilt in his sinker, but he isn’t expecting to add a new pitch to his arsenal just yet.
Gibson added that he may work a cutter into his rotation after throwing it for the first time last season against the Astros.
“I’m just trying to see how it mixes in with everything,” Gibson said. “There's always a give and take when you introduce a new pitch. One pitch can’t be thrown as much, so I'm trying to figure out which pitch is going to have to be the one that draws back a little bit, and if it's even going to be beneficial.”
Gibson threw 67 1/3 innings last season after averaging 155 innings per season in his seven years with the Twins. Woodward said the Rangers' coaching staff will monitor all the pitchers coming off the shortened season to evaluate how many innings they will pitch in 2021.
Woodward said Gibson’s major contribution may come off the field and in the clubhouse. At 33, Gibson is the oldest player on the 40-man roster, edging out fellow newcomer Khris Davis by two months.
“[Gibson is] probably our No. 1 guy, just pushing the culture and being a leader,” Woodward said. “The guy's tremendous in every way. He is an exceptional human being, he's a competitor, he's willing to listen and takes criticism. He's just exactly what we want out of our players, so he's a perfect example for our guys to look up to.”
Gibson said he enjoys filling a role left by Lance Lynn, who was traded to the White Sox in the offseason, and answering any questions the younger players on the pitching staff may have.
He added that he felt last season's COVID-19 protocols made it more difficult at times to have “baseball conversations” as often as most players would like. Gibson wants to encourage more of that in 2021.
“I think we have a special group of young guys -- position players and pitchers -- that are excited to get better and are willing to ask those questions,” Gibson said. “Our goal for the veterans on this team is to be those open guys who can sit there and have a conversation. We want to have those conversations.”
Additional Minor League signing
The Rangers added depth on Friday by agreeing to a Minor League deal to bring back right-hander Tyson Ross. Ross, who chose not to participate in the 2020 season, has a career 4.04 ERA over 10 seasons (203 games; 142 starts) with the A's, Padres, Rangers, Cardinals and Tigers.
Ross will not attend big league camp. He will instead work out with the Minor League rehab group at the Rangers’ Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz.