MINNEAPOLIS — Kyle Gibson is the elder statesman in the Twins’ clubhouse.
The 2009 first-round draft pick made his big-league debut for Minnesota in 2013. In the six years that followed, Gibson has seen a lot of departures, a lot of new faces and a lot of losses.
One thing he hasn’t seen is a division title. In fact, this is the first time in Gibson’s major-league career that the Twins have even seriously contended for an American League Central crown.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press talked with Gibson, the lone holdover from Minnesota’s 66-win team in 2013, this week about playing for a winner, roster transformation and Gibson’s potential postseason debut.
What is this like for you with this team, for the first time since you’ve been here, being in the race for a division title?
“It’s pretty special. When I was … drafted in 2009, they were in the middle of a really good run, and we were hoping to keep that going. And then in ‘13 and ‘14, we struggled pretty bad with some injuries and stuff.
And it was always just a thought you wanted to be the young guy that was coming up and changing the course of stuff and getting it going in the right direction. I felt like we were really close in 2017. We had some injuries last year, or we would’ve been right there again.
But this year, it kind of feels like a nice culmination of the young guys that have come up just after me, and the new guys that they’ve brought in to make huge impacts. It’s just really cool to see it actually come around and be a part of the only organization I’ve known, to be a part of the team that’s (achieving) the goal that we’ve had here for a while, to realize that is pretty cool.”
Did you ever think it would take this long? And because it has, does that make you appreciate it any more?
“I don’t necessarily think you think about the timing. We only have so much control of who’s added to the team, who’s subtracted from the team, stuff like that. But you always have that goal. You always start the season thinking that’s going to happen. It’s always disappointing when you don’t, but you don’t try to put a timeline on it and say, ‘Hey, if we don’t do it by this (year), then we haven’t succeeded,’ or, ‘If we do it this quick, then we’re exceeding expectations.’
You try to enjoy the moment, and I think that’s one thing that we’re really trying to do right now. You don’t really know when moments like this are going to come along, when seasons like this are going to come along. You try to enjoy it as much as possible, and try to really live in the moment and understand that a lot of these guys may never be on a team that hits 300 homers again, a lot of these guys may never win another division — if we’re lucky enough to win this division. So you just try to enjoy it.”
Does this feel different than the wild-card races you’ve been in before (in 2015 and 2017)?
“Absolutely. I mean anytime you are controlling your own destiny, and, no matter what other teams do, you just take care of business, then you’re in, then it changes things. When you don’t have to rely on other teams to lose or win, you don’t have to scoreboard watch as much. You know if you’re winning the game, then you’re not going anywhere. So I think that’s really allowed us to focus.”
You talked about how you can’t control, as players, who’s coming and who’s going. Everybody who was here when you got here in 2013 is gone. What it’s been like, year to year, seeing the clubhouse transform?
“Yeah, I don’t want to call it a negative transformation, because without some of these guys leaving, we don’t add some of these guys that are here. It’s different, it’s different. I think six of the teammates I had my whole career to last year aren’t here anymore. It’s different.
But it’s really cool, I was just talking with (Brian) Dozier (this week) — first time he’s in a new clubhouse — and he said it’s cool getting to meet new people and make new friendships. And I think that’s something that has been special with this team. We brought in eight new guys that are having a huge impact, and to be able to get to know them on a different level and be teammates with them and have that turnover, I think, has been a lot of fun.”
This team has barely been in the postseason since you’ve been here, and you haven’t pitched in the postseason yet. How much of a personal goal is it for you to have that experience?
“Yeah, I mean living it in the dugout in 2017 was a lot of fun, and it’s definitely a goal, definitely something that everyone wants to do. Any of us had a goal as a kid to play at the highest level possible at each level, and never pitching in the playoffs or never getting to the ALCS or anything past the wild card game is something that (when it happens) is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to it.”