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Twins' Gibson in a groove, maybe rotation

By Mike Berardino

St. Paul Pioneer Press

JUPITER, Fla. — The light seems to have gone on for Kyle Gibson.

Since giving up three successive hits to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Roberts and Mark Teixeira last Friday at Steinbrenner Field, the Twins right-hander has been on an impressive roll. It might be enough for him to win the final spot in the season-opening rotation, although Sam Deduno and Scott Diamond are still in the conversation.

“Gibson was really good,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “He’s pitching really well. We really like him. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. That’s good stuff.”

Gibson, 26, had a string of seven shutout innings snapped by Matt Adams’ leadoff homer in the fifth inning. Catcher Josmil Pinto asked for a sinker, but Gibson shook him off and threw a flat slider that Adams deposited over the right-field wall at the end of an eight-pitch duel.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job being game-ready,” Gibson said. “I feel like I’ve made the adjustments I needed to make this offseason.”

Yadier Molina added a fly-ball double that Oswaldo Arcia misplayed in right, and there were back-to-back singles by Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams with two down in the second. Otherwise, Gibson has retired 25 of his past 31 batters dating to the outing against the Yankees.

Sixteen of those outs have come on the ground, an indication Gibson’s sinker is heavier than ever. He also struck out four Cardinals on Wednesday.

“At this point it’s the front office’s job to pick what guy they want in which spot,” Gibson said. “But I hope I’m one of those guys.”

Big moment

Six weeks ago, Danny Ortiz was in the starting lineup for Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series championship game against Mexico.

As big as that was, what the Double-A outfielder got to do Wednesday might have meant even more to a player the Minnesota Twins drafted in the fourth round in 2008.

“This is a good experience,” Ortiz said after replacing Arcia in right field in the seventh inning of a 3-1 exhibition loss at the St. Louis Cardinals. “It helps that I’ve played winter ball with a lot of veteran guys. They’ve told me what it’s like here.”

Ortiz grounded into an eighth-inning double play in his only trip to the plate Wednesday, but fellow minor leaguer Stephen Wickens, a third baseman from Canada by way of Florida Gulf Coast University, ripped a sharp single off reliever Seth Maness two batters earlier.

Gardenhire will ask minor league field coordinator Joel Lepel for a few players to take on trips, and the minor league staff will decide which ones get to go.

“It’s always fun to see these guys. I love it,” Gardenhire said. “We give them an opportunity to get at-bats, and it’s always great. It’s a nice reward for these kids that aren’t invited to major league camp.”

Ortiz, a lefty hitter, has 45 career homers in the minors. Of the five players the Twins drafted ahead of Ortiz in 2008, only Aaron Hicks remains in the system.

“He can swing it,” Gardenhire said. “He knows what he’s doing. I’ve seen him over the years.”

Florimon in action

Shortstop Pedro Florimon, fully recovered from a Feb. 17 appendectomy, has gone 0 for 5 and hit one ball out of the infield in his first two official spring games.

However, he got so much action in the field Wednesday, and handled himself so well, that Gardenhire might be able to ease off the gas pedal a bit with Opening Day right around the corner.

“Not right away. He needs to play right now,” Gardenhire said. “But it was nice to see him back out there, picking the ball at shortstop. Made a lot of nice plays.”

Florimon played the first five innings in the field Wednesday, handling five chances of varying difficulty with no issues against the St. Louis Cardinals. His best play was a lunging stop and spinning throw from behind second base to throw out catcher Yadier Molina in the second inning.

On Tuesday night, Florimon played the first six innings against Tampa Bay, handling at least four chances with no problem.

“If he looks like he’s dragging a little bit, I’ll take him out,” Gardenhire said. “He needs at-bats and he needs more time on his legs. He needs to get his legs underneath him.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.