Kyle Gibson, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Orioles, said he enjoyed his video conference calls with pitching coach Chris Holt and assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes. That was important. So were the recommendations he got from pitcher Jordan Lyles and catcher Robinson Chirinos, his teammates with Texas in 2021.
“Seeing from the outside, what Baltimore had last year, the fun they were having, the second half they had, the direction of the team, there was a lot to like,” Gibson said in a Zoom call on Thursday.
“I was fortunate enough to have, this time around in free agency, a couple of teams that were on the winning side of baseball,” he said. “Going for a deep October run. That made it enticing, and not an easy decision. When it comes to how this team is built with good young players, how they play defense, just the whole package, I felt like this was a really good opportunity for my family and I.”
Gibson, 35, spent last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, who went to the World Series, He was 10-8 with a 5.05 earned-run average in 31 starts. His first seven seasons were with Minnesota, and he pitched a season-and-a-half with the Rangers before they traded him to the Phillies.
News of the agreement was reported last Saturday, and the deal was announced by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias on Monday. Gibson said negotiations had been ongoing for two or three weeks and felt no need to get a contract before the Winter Meetings.
“If we felt like we were in a situation where it was pretty clear where I knew what the market was for me, and I had a location we wanted to be, and we had a situation that was a fit, we didn’t see a need to wait until after the Winter Meetings,” he said. “The tricky part of some of this is you never know when teams need to pivot and go to other players. They can’t wait on any given player for as long as that player wants. In this situation, we felt Baltimore was a great fit.”
Gibson is the oldest player on the Orioles, and he could take Lyles’ place as a mentor. Lyles also led the Orioles in wins and innings pitched. The Orioles declined to exercise the $11 million option for the 32-year-old right-hander and instead chose to spend $10 million to acquire Gibson.
“I looked at the roster the other day, and I think I’m the only person born before 1992 and maybe the only person with more than five or six years’ service time,” Gibson said. “I don’t necessarily hunt out the opportunities or hunt out a spot just because you can work with people. … But I was really fortunate as a young guy to have [guys] like Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, I could keep naming starters that took me under their wing and helped me with direction on and off the field. When the arises, I look forward to helping guys in any way I can.”
Gibson emphasized how much Lyles’ endorsement of the Orioles meant to him.
“He only had glowing things to say about Baltimore,” Gibson said. “That was one of the reasons I felt so comfortable making the decision. Just hearing how he talked about the approach, why he thought he got better was very interesting. That was really cool to have him give credit where credit was due, talking about the makeup of the team and talking about things like pitching to [Adley] Rutschman. That’s what stood out to him.
“I look forward to hopefully being an extension of Jordan. I feel like we’re fairly similar when it comes to how we approach people. I definitely talk more than he does so hopefully guys don’t get bugged by that because you’ve got to pull some words out of him every now and then.”
Gibson has started six times at Oriole Park, and on March 31st, 2018, threw six hitless innings against the Orioles while with the Twins, walking five. Although he didn’t pitch there in 2022, he had success without the new left-field wall dimensions — nearly 30 feet deeper and 6 feet higher. He has given up just two home runs in 32 2/3 innings at Oriole Park.
“It’s one of my favorite road parks,” Gibson said. “I think it’s a sneaky city to go to. I love restaurants in Little Italy. There’s a lot to love about Baltimore. Playing against that team in ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16 when they were really stinking good, and that stadium was just electric to play. A lot of cool memories for me playing there. That had something to do with it. Who knows what I’m going to think of the stadium [renovations]?
“I enjoyed seeing the short wall sitting in the dugout as a player, not as much as a pitcher. It’s something that everybody gets used to. I’ve heard people say aesthetically what they want. As a pitcher, I think when you see how many less home runs you would give up if you pitched all your [home] games in Baltimore, that’s a pretty good thing.”