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Gibson working to carry over 2017 success

Righty owns 1.80 ERA this spring after allowing 1 run on 2 hits over 3 innings Monday
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- After making mechanical changes last season, including learning how to better utilize his slider after some advice from Byron Buxton around the All-Star break, right-hander Kyle Gibson is confident he'll be able to carry over his 2017 second-half success into this season.

Gibson was solid against the Phillies in a 4-3 loss on Monday, allowing one run on two hits over three innings, making one mistake on a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate on a homer from Rhys Hoskins in the second. He struck out two, induced five ground-ball outs and has a 1.80 ERA this spring.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- After making mechanical changes last season, including learning how to better utilize his slider after some advice from Byron Buxton around the All-Star break, right-hander Kyle Gibson is confident he'll be able to carry over his 2017 second-half success into this season.

Gibson was solid against the Phillies in a 4-3 loss on Monday, allowing one run on two hits over three innings, making one mistake on a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate on a homer from Rhys Hoskins in the second. He struck out two, induced five ground-ball outs and has a 1.80 ERA this spring.

"It feels a lot better," Gibson said. "I went down in the 'pen during the fourth inning to work on curveballs and sliders down because I felt like my hand wasn't in the right spot. But when you look at my changeup and sinker, they move similarly, which is what I'm looking for."

Video: MIN@PHI: Gibson strikes out Cozens in the 3rd inning

Gibson again credited Buxton for his second-half resurgence, as Buxton is the one who helped him better use his slider after standing in during a July batting practice. He explained to Gibson how his slider looked similar to his fastball out of his hand when thrown a certain way, and Gibson began to use the slider much more effectively.

Through the end of July, Gibson threw his slider 15.3 percent of the time and his curveball 12.1 percent of the time, but after Aug. 1, he used his slider 20.3 percent of the time and his curveball 7.7 percent of the time, per Statcast™. He also increased his amount of pitches in the strike zone from 44.3 percent to 47.1 percent. Gibson had a 6.08 ERA through the end of July, but posted a 3.55 ERA over the final two months of the season.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I want to be able to throw a slider that works off my inside sinker to a righty," Gibson said. "And I want my changeup to work off it. Buxton was coming off the DL and told me about my slider, and how it looked compared to my fastball, and that really helped. To have a hitter like him stand in there and tell me what he was seeing, it's the kind of advice you can use down the road."

Camp battles
• Rule 5 reliever Tyler Kinley allowed an unearned run in the fourth and walked one, but was otherwise solid, with his fastball reaching 99 mph on the radar gun. He threw 16 pitches (12 for strikes) and caught the eye of Twins manager Paul Molitor.

"[Kinley] has been a little bit hot and cold so far, but I thought today was a good day," Molitor said. "It's hard for hitters to cover a 98-mph fastball and a 92-mph slider. He's an interesting character. That arm is pretty big. We'll just keep moving him along, and as a Rule 5 guy, we'll look at his long-term value and those kinds of things. But it's still early."

• First baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas continued his solid spring offensively, doubling to lead off the second. He's tied for the team lead with three doubles this spring. But Vargas remains likely to be the odd man out after the surprise signing of Logan Morrison to be the club's everyday DH. The Twins, though, won't make any move with Vargas until near the end of camp.

Video: MIN@PHI: Vargas skies a double to right field

• Outfielder Zack Granite, who is competing alongside Robbie Grossman to be the club's fourth outfielder, went 1-for-3 with a strikeout and is hitting .167 this spring. He also lost a ball in the sun in center field. Grossman went 0-for-3 and is 0-for-17 this spring.

Injury update
• Catcher Mitch Garver, who returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing three games with a tweaked right knee, felt fine after the game and will play again Tuesday. Fellow catcher Jason Castro has been out for the last week with migraines but is expected to start Tuesday's game.

Up next
• Left-hander Adalberto Mejia, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation, is slated to make his third start of the spring at 12:05 p.m. CT Tuesday against the Orioles at Hammond Stadium. Other pitchers scheduled to see action include Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Jake Reed and Myles Jaye.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Kyle Gibson