Anyone who has watched the 2021 Phillies has recognized how badly they've needed competence at the back of their rotation -- reliability and the ability to pitch deep into games.
They traded for a veteran in Kyle Gibson who has fit that description for much of his career, and if the new-look rotation can get to full strength with Zach Eflin (knee tendinitis) injured and without a timetable to return, they'll feel even better about their post-deadline staff.
Gibson debuted Sunday in Pittsburgh and allowed two runs over 6⅔ innings. He threw 113 pitches and pitched well enough to win, especially with the enormous run support he received in a 15-4 blowout.
He didn't throw as many strikes as he would have liked (under 57 percent) and walked the opposing pitcher, who came around to score in the third inning, but he escaped a couple of jams and didn't encounter problems in five of the seven frames he pitched.
He enjoyed his first experience with fellow 2021 All-Star J.T. Realmuto.
"J.T. and I, we were on the same page all day," Gibson said. "I kind of got myself into trouble getting out of my delivery and losing my legs a little bit. Getting used to how we prepare here for starts, advanced reports and stuff like that, I felt like J.T. and I had a good plan. Weak contact is something I try to hunt. I try to have early outs and hopefully next time, I throw a few more strikes."
Gibson is a nine-year veteran who had spent his entire career in the American League prior to Friday, when he was traded by the Rangers at the deadline with Ian Kennedy and pitching prospect Hans Crouse to the Phillies for Spencer Howard and two minor-league pitchers. Gibson spent his first seven seasons with the Twins and has been better than ever this year with a 2.86 ERA in 20 starts, 15 of which he's gone at least six innings.
"There was a little part of me before signing with the Rangers that thought about making the move to the National League," said Gibson, who is also under contract for next season at $7 million. "Definitely wanted to get away from the AL Central, that's for sure.
"I think, for me, it's important to remember that the slider I throw, everybody's seen a slider like it. The curveball I throw, everybody's seen a curveball like it. Sinker, same thing. For me, it's about making sure I stay unpredictable and I do a really good job with my sequencing. I just read the hitter. I think the more you're able to read the hitter and read the situation, you keep yourself away from being predictable."
This was the first time the 33-year-old Gibson has been traded so he said it was an adjustment figuring out how to get to a new city and new situation to settle in as quickly as possible for a start. He joined the Phillies Saturday in Pittsburgh and appreciated the time he got to spend in the dugout getting to know his new teammates.
"The pitchability is pretty high with that guy," said Realmuto, who went 5 for 6 and drove in four runs Sunday. "He can kind of do anything he wants at any time. I think he's going to be a guy capable of going deep into games for us often, which is quite nice."
The other big-leaguer the Phillies obtained in the deadline deal from Texas was 36-year-old Kennedy, who has a 2.97 ERA with 16 saves, two seasons after saving 30 games for the Royals. Kennedy is a 15-year vet who was a starter the first 12 seasons. He's adapted well to a late-inning bullpen role, though his Phillies debut was spoiled by a two-out, two-run home run in the ninth inning with the Phils up 13 runs.
Kennedy, a free agent after the season, is the Phils' new closer with Ranger Suarez moving into the rotation and starting Monday in D.C.
Gibson has gotten to know Kennedy well this season and is an admirer.
"He has a lot of confidence in his stuff, which sounds pretty simple, but when you throw as many fastballs as he does, you've got to have confidence that you can move that fastball around and that fastball is better than the other guy on that given day," Gibson said.
"His leadership in the clubhouse in Texas was something I tried to model and tried to follow along with. He's been around the league quite a bit. He's been in every situation. There's not a moment where the game speeds up and he's overwhelmed. I'm sure he's probably frustrated today because he gave up a couple of runs even though those two runs didn't matter. He's a gamer.
"It's just been cool to talk pitching and talk life with him, he's got kids too. He's been in a lot of situations that I either want to be in or have been in. He's a great guy to learn from."
As for the way Gibson would describe himself to his new fanbase ...
"I hope that you're able to get used to seeing me go out there for the seventh inning, especially with a high pitch count," he said. "I really enjoy going deep into the game. I take pride in my defense and in being a competitor. There's times when I'm not going to get as much swing-and-miss, but I try to be out there pitching to the situation, pitching to what the hitter's approach is and try to be able to make adjustments. The hitter's going to tell you what they're looking for, what their swing is and where their hole is."