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Gibson pumped for frigid Opening Day start

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Kyle Gibson left the Twins on Wednesday to fly to Minnesota in advance of his scheduled start in the home opener at Target Field on Thursday at 3:10 p.m. CT against the Mariners.

Gibson is coming off a strong outing, as he held the Orioles hitless through six innings before being lifted after 102 pitches on Saturday. The start in the home opener is a nice reward for Gibson, who had a strong second half last year and was arguably the club's best pitcher down the stretch when it made its surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game.

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PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Kyle Gibson left the Twins on Wednesday to fly to Minnesota in advance of his scheduled start in the home opener at Target Field on Thursday at 3:10 p.m. CT against the Mariners.

Gibson is coming off a strong outing, as he held the Orioles hitless through six innings before being lifted after 102 pitches on Saturday. The start in the home opener is a nice reward for Gibson, who had a strong second half last year and was arguably the club's best pitcher down the stretch when it made its surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game.

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"Any chance you get to start a home opener, Minnesota fans won't care if it's 32 degrees or 22 degrees, they want to see a baseball game," Gibson said. "I'm excited to be headed home and start a good homestand."

As Gibson noted, cold temperatures are in the forecast for the opener, with a high of 39 degrees and a low of 16 on Thursday, according to Weather.com. It's also been snowing in the Twin Cities this week and a crew had to use high-pressure hoses and shovels to clear snow from the stands on Wednesday. But Gibson said he actually enjoys pitching in the cold and started in the club's coldest game in history on April 17, 2014, with a first-pitch temperature of 31 degrees. The MLB record for the most frigid contest is 23 degrees on April 23, 2013, set at Colorado's Coors Field.

"Snowing and cold is better than not snowing and cold," Gibson said. "It's either going to be brutally cold or there is going to be some cool snow on the ground. I grew up in Indiana and we had snow there. We played in it every now and then. And my first college start [at Missouri] was snowed out."

Gibson pitched in mostly favorable conditions on Saturday night with a game-time temperature of 55 degrees at Camden Yards. His offspeed pitches helped him get out of jams after issuing five walks, as he struck out six and induced weak contact.

"I tried to be as similar to the end of last year as possible," Gibson said. "Even when it was 2-0, or 2-1, I had confidence with my fastball in the strike zone instead of getting them to chase it. Hopefully, that's going to be the thing this year, that I can look back on it and say through all the struggles of 2017 that's what I learned and that's when I turned it around."

Twins tidbits
Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was held out of the lineup on Wednesday, as planned by manager Paul Molitor. Molitor explained it was a way to make sure Mauer will be in the lineup for Thursday's home opener and also a way to get some at-bats for Logan Morrison, who is off to a slow start offensively.

The home opener kicks off on Thursday with Breakfast on the Plaza, starting at 6 a.m. before DJ Advance plays starting at noon. Molitor and Mauer will meet with the media in a press conference before the game. The National Anthem will be performed by Dessa with a flyover featuring T-38s from the United States Air Force. The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by the 2018 Olympic Gold Medal-winning U.S. Men's Curling Team.

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

Minnesota Twins, Kyle Gibson