A few days after Kyle Gibson agreed to join the Orioles, he took a closer look at the roster around him. The right-handed starting pitcher knew Baltimore was a young team. He knew he’d be needed for more than just recording outs on the field. But what he saw struck him.

“I think I’m the only person born before 1992,” Gibson said Thursday on a video call.

At 35, Gibson has by far the most experience of anyone in the Orioles clubhouse. His decade of major league experience makes Gibson an outlier in Baltimore, among teammates who have largely just burst onto the scene.

But that’s exactly what the Orioles wanted when signing Gibson to a one-year deal worth $10 million. He projects to slot into the back end of the starting rotation. But when he’s not on the mound, Gibson will be a valued voice to a core of pitchers who haven’t seen what he’s seen. And what he’s seen is plentiful: He was part of a World Series run with the Philadelphia Phillies last year while also experiencing the good luck — and ill luck — that’s an endemic part of being a long-lasting starter in an unforgiving league.

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“When the opportunity arises, I look forward to hopefully helping guys in any way I can,” Gibson said. “I love watching bullpens. I love watching guys throw and just soaking up information. Digging into people’s brains and how they’re trying to get better and what they’re trying to accomplish in the bullpen and just watching — I think that’s how you can really absorb a lot of information and learn a lot about guys.”

By adding Gibson, the Orioles effectively closed a return for right-hander Jordan Lyles (the team declined his option for 2023). It was Lyles who found himself last season as the clubhouse father-figure, in some ways. On Father’s Day, members of the pitching staff wore shirts that read “Best Dad Ever” with a picture of Lyles’ head emblazoned across the chest. It was a common sight to see right-hander Tyler Wells huddled close to Lyles, leaning in, nodding along.

In Lyles’ quiet manner, he guided the young staff through a breakout season in Baltimore. And when Lyles took the mound, he gutted his way to 179 innings, always pushing to work deeper into games “for the boys.”

Gibson is similar in many ways, with a history as an innings eater — in seven of his 10 major league seasons, Gibson has thrown at least 160 innings.

“I look forward to hopefully being an extension of Jordo, because I feel like we’re fairly similar when it comes to how we approach people,” Gibson said. “I definitely talk more than he does, so hopefully the guys don’t get too bugged by that, because you have to pull some words out of Jordo every now and then.”

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Added Mike Elias, the Orioles’ executive vice president and general manager: “I think we saw what Jordan did last year in that same role, and I think we needed to come into the season with somebody, at least one player, like that again.”

During early conversations with the Orioles, Gibson immediately found a connection with pitching coach Chris Holt and assistant Darren Holmes. They outlined what Gibson did well last season, impressed by his six-pitch mix despite an ERA that ballooned to 5.05 on the back of a poor September.

They advertised working with catcher Adley Rutschman, a rookie who is already one of the best pitch framers in baseball. They pointed out the Gold Glove-caliber fielders behind Gibson. They emphasized how the new left field wall, moved back and raised, could make a significant difference for a pitcher who allowed 24 home runs (if Gibson played all of his games at Camden Yards, he would’ve allowed 25% fewer homers, per Statcast).

And they presented the Orioles’ analytical focus to pitching, intent on displaying how numbers could lead to strikes.

Adjustments throughout Gibson’s career have helped him remain relevant. In 2016, he began throwing change-ups to right-handed hitters. He added a curveball shortly after that, and a cutter in 2021 to be better against lefties. He altered his slider — his most consistent offering — late last season to include more horizontal sweep, and he added a tick of velocity through a slight delivery change.

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He’s never done tinkering.

“I’m always looking for things that can make me better,” Gibson said. “For me, digging into usage, digging into locations, digging into effectiveness of each pitch — once again, I might be boring you guys — is something that I enjoy doing. It’s something I need to do personally to be the best version of myself.”

But before Gibson made his decision, he had two important people to reach out to. The first was Lyles, the player Gibson is effectively replacing. The second was Robinson Chirinos, the veteran catcher who became a free agent this winter.

The glowing review of the organization Lyles gave helped Gibson feel more comfortable with his final decision. And when he asked Chirinos how the team treated family and children and heard positive reviews, Gibson signed shortly after.

“He’s a great pitcher and a great leader,” said Chirinos, who’s spending the offseason in Venezuela. “He’s a man of faith, so I know he’s going to help the young pitchers they have and he’s going to be a great leader for them. He also has family members, so he’s a family guy. I think he’s a great fit for the organization and I believe he’s going to help the team a lot on the field and off the field this year.”

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What Gibson does on the field will only add to his clubhouse presence. He can glance at the roster and realize he sticks out somewhat, a 35-year-old on a team full of kids. But that’s the point.


Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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