ARLINGTON -- Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson showed again on Sunday afternoon what the Rangers were eager to see in Spring Training back in March.
Gibson, pitching four innings in an intrasquad game at Globe Life Field, is back to full strength after going through a difficult 2019 season because of an early bout with E. Coli in Spring Training and year-long battle with ulcerative colitis.
“We have been confident since Spring Training,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “In the off-time, we were a little worried about it but he has been communicating with [pitching coach Julio Rangel] and our staff. We feel really good where he is at. To throw four innings ... is a really good start for him. We’ll see how he bounces back in the next couple of days, but he said felt fine -- a really good sign for us.”
Gibson actually threw the equivalent of five innings. He had a quick fourth, so he stayed out and retired three more hitters. Overall, Gibson allowed one run on three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four. He finished after 59 pitches.
Gibson had been throwing to hitters on an American Legion team at his home outside St. Louis during the shutdown.
“It's always good to get back out there,” Gibson said. “It was different. I mean, I think that's probably the biggest empty stadium I've ever pitched in, and I'm glad we kept the music on so it wouldn't have been dead silent. It was as close as we can get to a real game. So that was that was a good part about it.”
Gibson was able to make 29 starts and five relief appearances over 160 innings for the Twins in 2019, but he struggled with his strength and energy for much of the season and he spent the winter trying to get it all back.
Gibson may be at full strength, but he was identified as being one of two Rangers considered “at-risk” for the COVID-19. The other is left-hander Brett Martin, who is a Type 1 diabetic and tested positive for the virus during the intake process before workouts.
Gibson has a good reason to follow the lead of David Price, Félix Hernández and others who have decided not to play this season. Gibson and his wife, Elizabeth, talked about it and he is determined to keep pitching.
“I talked to my wife a little bit about it, especially once we were still sitting back in Missouri and this kind of stuff started popping back up again,” Gibson said. “And she asked, 'Do we have a reason to sit back and sit here and think about this and see if this is worth taking the risk?’
“I've been in contact with my GI [doctor] back in St. Louis quite a bit, and just picking his brain and basically taking his advice. And I told him that, 'If something comes up and you think that I shouldn't be out there and you think that it's not worth the long-term risk, then we'll have that conversation.'
“And I'll have a conversation at that point with the team and everybody else. At this point, with protocols and what we're able to do and how our team has approached it, I think the risk is still there, but it's working and hopefully we can keep it that way.”
Woodward said that Gibson hasn’t approached him about the possibility of sitting out the season.
“This is a real concern,” Woodward said. “There are guys that are opting out. I don't blame them. Guys taking the necessary precautions. But if they're not comfortable with the way things are being handled, I can't blame them for that and I'd have to support it through it. To this point, everybody's staying, but I would definitely have that conversation if they wanted to.”
Rangers third baseman Todd Frazier, who lives in New Jersey, said that players need to respect and support those who decide not to play this season. He and his wife, Jackie, also discussed the situation before coming to Texas.
“It was really real brief,” Frazier said. “We understood the circumstances, but I respect every single person that doesn't want to play. This is some serious stuff. Listen, this is the way the world is in unprecedented times. For guys, it's a tough decision, but very respectable and commendable because they're looking out for their family and themselves.”