Kyle Gibson made his Major League debut on June 29, 2013, against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field in Minnesota. He’ll make his first Opening Day start against the Royals as well, this time at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
“Having never played on Opening Day, it's something that you think a lot about as a player, wanting to be involved in that first game,” Gibson said. “There's just something cool about being on the line, something cool about the anthem that day. Just everybody being out there and the whole team gets recognized at the start of a new year. You get a fresh start.”
A University of Missouri alumnus, Gibson said Kansas City is one of his favorite places to pitch because of how close it is to family. He has a number of family members coming to Opening Day to watch him pitch, including his wife and kids, his in-laws and even a college roommate that lives in the area.
Though it won’t be the 60-70 people he had during his Major League debut, Gibson said he's enjoyed being able to celebrate big moments with those close to him.
“The moments before and after the game are really special,” Gibson said. “I think it ends up being a combination of efforts by a lot of people. It ends up being that extra moment where you get to say thank you to a lot of people who probably helped you get there. It really makes you realize how fortunate you are when you get that chance to celebrate that with people.”
It’s a little extra added comfort for him as he enters the 2021 season hoping for a bounce-back year. Gibson posted a 5.35 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, but he added a cutter to his arsenal this offseason and is confident as a leader on a young Rangers pitching staff.
He has a career 4.57 ERA and 1.418 WHIP. He’s also ranked the No. 29th best Opening Day starter in MLB this season, but Gibson’s confidence hasn’t wavered all spring.
Though it’s cliché, Gibson says he feels like he’s in the best spot he’s been in years, especially following struggles with ulcerative colitis in 2019 and COVID-19 affecting the entire league in ‘20. After the league shutdown and quarantine last year, he felt like he didn’t have the means to get himself where he needed to be strength wise.
“It's definitely a different feeling [this season],” Gibson said. “Mentally for sure, especially with what I've been trying to work on on the mound and how I feel like it's translated. I think coming off of a couple off seasons, the health conditions I've come off of, I think physically I feel about as good as I have in a long time.”
That’s shown throughout this spring, when Gibson started three games, allowing just three earned runs and notching 10 strikeouts.
With a fairly young pitching staff, and Gibson being one of the oldest on the squad, he believes they’ve put themselves in a position to exceed outside expectations. He thinks it’s an advantage to give guys room to grow throughout the season, especially as the entire club focuses more internally. A lot of the “underrated” players have a chip on their shoulder because of those low outside expectations.
“The young guys that we have, we're confident in the development that they've made from last year to this year,” Gibson said. “We're confident in some of the guys that have been here for a few years and feeling like we're better prepared this year and have gotten better over the offseason.”