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New Phillies starter Kyle Gibson is a ‘cerebral’ pitcher who ‘you don’t see it a lot in our game’

The Phillies believe their package deal of Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy gives them reliability in the ninth inning while bolstering their thin starting rotation.

Kyle Gibson, obtained from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline, will make his Phillies debut  on Sunday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Kyle Gibson, obtained from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline, will make his Phillies debut on Sunday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.Read moreStephen Brashear / AP

PITTSBURGH -- Ian Kennedy and Kyle Gibson were pitching for the American League’s worst team so they knew this month that the Rangers would be selling at the trade deadline.

Kennedy, a reliever, and Gibson, a starter, joked about being packaged together at Friday’s deadline.

“But we didn’t think it was going to happen,” Kennedy said Saturday at PNC Park.

And there they both were joining the Phillies on Saturday, a day after being packaged together before the deadline hit. Kennedy is the team’s new closer, which pushes Ranger Suarez into the starting rotation and Gibson will start Sunday’s series finale.

Gibson, a first-time All Star, had a 2.87 ERA in 19 starts for Texas. The right-hander is a groundball pitcher who has the eighth-highest groundball rate (50.8%) among all pitchers and the ninth-best groundball to flyball ratio (1.78.) The Phillies believe their package deal gives them reliability in the ninth inning -- Kennedy has converted 16 of his 17 saves -- while bolstering their thin starting rotation.

“I was telling our pitching coach after his last start that it’s really impressive to watch him because he’s cerebral,” Kennedy said of Gibson. “He’s really smart. He breaks down hitters that way. He’s going to get his strikeouts here and there, but he induces weak contact. You don’t see it a lot in our game. I love watching pitchers like him because he moves it left, right, down. He has all these different pitches and he commands all of them. When you have a bunch of guys who just throw nowadays, he’s a pitcher. He’s really competitive and you guys will get to see that.”

COVID-19 outbreak in Clearwater

The Phillies Clearwater, Fla. facility remains closed by a coronavirus outbreak and the low-A Clearwater Threshers postponed their games for Saturday and Sunday to allow for more testing.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said less than 10 players have tested positive while others are out because of contact tracing. None of the players, Dombrowski said, are dealing with severe symptoms.

With the facility closed, the Phillies are keeping injured players with the major-league team instead of having them rehab in Florida. Zach Eflin, Sam Coonrod, and newly acquired Freddy Galvis are with the Phils in Pittsburgh.

The shutdown comes after last year’s minor-league season was cancelled by the pandemic, meaning the team’s minor leaguers are now missing additional developmental time.

“It’s one of those things that’s really unfortunate,” Dombrowski said. “... It’s just where we are in the world. I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish we were playing, but you just have to deal with it the best that you can.”

Falter cleared to return

Bailey Falter might have been inserted into the starting rotation this weekend but he’s been out since July 18 after testing positive for COVID-19. The left-hander has been cleared to return but will need to build arm strength before joining the Phillies, where he’ll remain a reliever. He’ll meet the team in Pittsburgh and should soon start a rehab assignment.

“He’s feeling the COVID thing,” Dombrowski said. “Most people haven’t had it like this but he got sapped. How quickly he comes back? I don’t have a timeframe.”

Extra bases

Galvis will wear No. 8. The Phillies think he’s roughly two weeks away from returning from a strained right quadriceps. ... Gibson is No. 44 and Kennedy is No. 31. Matt Moore is now No. 48 after giving his number to Kennedy. ... Rhys Hoskins did not start on Saturday and is not expected to play Sunday. If so, the groin injury he suffered Thursday would have cost him the entire series. The Phillies consider him day-to-day.