MINNEAPOLIS -- Terry Ryan grimaced Tuesday as he considered the state of his last-place pitching staff, and how it might look in 2015.
"I don't know what kind of rotation depth we have. I'll let you know around Oct. 1," the Twins general manager said. "We need a little bit more productivity out of the rotation before you start anointing jobs 1/8for next year3/8. We have names. We have bodies. We have participants."
He didn't necessarily mean to indict Kyle Gibson among the "participants," but it was only an hour later before the 26-year-old right-hander proved his point. Handed a five-run lead in the first inning, Gibson and the bullpen gave it all back by the sixth, and Cleveland beat the Twins 7-5.
Gibson, who has dominated the opposition and held them to zero or one run a dozen different times this season, was the sloppy, hittable version that so mystifies the Twins this time, the one who has given up five or more runs nine times now. He put at least one runner on base in every inning, gave up a run on a wild pitch and surrendered his first home run since Aug. 3.
Gibson inflated his ERA to 4.13 by giving up five runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, and pushed the starting rotation's ERA to a collective 5.05 -- worse than every AL team but Texas.
No wonder Ryan seems so dour when the topic of pitching comes up. "There's no question we've had issues with our rotation for far too many years now," Ryan said. "And it's there for many people to grab onto."
So consider these next six weeks to be an early audition for 2015. Gibson probably doesn't have to worry about a job, not after displaying shutdown talent in about half of his starts. But it's that other half that the Twins want cleaned up.
The Twins gave him a cushion to work with Tuesday, scoring five runs before Cleveland's Trevor Bauer even recorded an out. Danny Santana led off with a double to right, and Brian Dozier battled Bauer for eight pitches, finally drawing a walk. Then Joe Mauer drove in the Twins' first run by slugging a 3-2 fastball to the warning track in center field, where it bounded over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Kennys Vargas followed with a sharp single to right, scoring another run, and Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway jumped out of the dugout to advise Bauer. If he told Bauer to throw an 84-mph changeup to Oswaldo Arcia with his next pitch, it was a mistake, because Arcia clobbered it. The three-run homer, Arcia's fifth in a week and third consecutive game with one, landed on the right-field plaza, spotting Gibson a 5-0 lead.
But Bauer went into lockdown mode from there, retiring the next 14 hitters he faced. Gibson went the other way. He surrendered a home run to Yan Gomes in the second inning, then escaped a second-and-third situation in the third. Three singles in the fourth inning produced two runs, driven in by Zach Walters and Michael Bourn's leadoff double in the fifth turned into Cleveland's fourth run when Gibson threw a two-out wild pitch.
The Twins' lead finally vanished in the sixth inning, when Gibson gave up a one-out single to Gomes. Brian Duensing relieved, but three of the next four hitters collected hits, the biggest one by pinch hitter Tyler Holt. His double to deep center scored two runs and put the Indians ahead for the first time, 6-5. Bourn followed with a run-scoring hit as well, giving Cleveland seven unanswered runs.
(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services