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Gibson stellar in 5 innings against Rays

Right-hander improving in each start; bullpen follows with solid job
Special to MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kyle Gibson's strong spring continued on Thursday, giving the Twins confidence the right-hander will be able to help shoulder the load in Ervin Santana's absence.

The 30-year-old had his longest outing of the spring, pitching five innings, giving up one run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts in an 8-1 win over the Rays.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kyle Gibson's strong spring continued on Thursday, giving the Twins confidence the right-hander will be able to help shoulder the load in Ervin Santana's absence.

The 30-year-old had his longest outing of the spring, pitching five innings, giving up one run on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts in an 8-1 win over the Rays.

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Slotted in as the fourth starter until Santana's expected return in mid-April, Gibson threw 66 pitches, 47 for strikes in his fourth start.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Lot of strikes, nice mixture, efficient, gave up the run, came back, stayed aggressive, which was good to see," said manager Paul Molitor.

In three official spring starts, Gibson has gone 10 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, one home run, a hit batter, no walks and seven strikeouts. His last start, March 10 against the Red Sox, was washed out by rain. In that outing, he went three innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk.

Gibson has been pleased with his spring so far.

"I feel like I learned a lot toward the end of the year last year and how my pitches work and how using the fastball differently can help," he said. "I really just try to keep that same approach and same feel, and try to actually take it into the season this year. Too many times I've had that approach in the spring and, for whatever reason, change it when I get into the season.

"Today was a good test, going five innings against pretty close to their starting lineup. And, for me, I was just trying to treat it as much of a real game as possible. Yes, I was working on stuff, working on my slider, whatever it was. But when the time came to get an out, I was treating it like I needed to get an out and put up a zero."

This and that
• Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley followed Gibson, going one perfect inning with a strikeout. Ryan Pressly went two perfect innings, and Jake Reed went one scoreless inning, giving up a hit and two walks with a strikeout.

"We pitched good today," Molitor said. "Kinley had a quick inning, strike one on all the guys that he faced, which I think is big for him. Pressly kind of breezed through a couple. Reed struggled a little bit with his command, but he got through it."

Video: TOR@MIN: Rosario crushes a solo home run

Eddie Rosario, who had been sidelined for 11 days with triceps tendonitis, returned to the lineup. Serving as the designated hitter, he went 0-for-3 but said his shoulder feels good. He is expected to be in the lineup, again as the DH, for Friday's split-squad night game against the Red Sox.

Kennys Vargas, who could be the odd man out with the addition of Logan Morrison, started at first base, batting sixth against the Rays. He went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Twins on Thursday.

Minnesota Twins, Kyle Gibson