Technically, it was a promotion.
Joey Gallo was headed to Triple A Round Rock in early July. Trouble is, he was leaving Arlington, where he had been savoring his first taste of the majors with the Texas Rangers, a dream-come-true for Gallo and hordes of Rangers fans eagerly awaiting the top prospect’s arrival.
But Gallo’s 25 games in June were a temporary solution when third baseman Adrian Beltre was injured. As general manager Jon Daniels explained, Gallo would come up from Double A Frisco to help fill the void but eventually report to Round Rock.
And there was plenty for Gallo, who turns 22 in November, to work on. He hit five home runs for the Rangers, but also struck out 43 times, nearly half his at-bats.
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I went down and tried to eat a whole buffet in one sitting.
Rangers prospect Joey Gallo on trying to do too much at Round Rock
“It’s tough to get sent down, ever, but I was excited to go down there to at least find myself again, find my swing and work on different things without so much attention on it,” Gallo said. “I went down and tried to eat a whole buffet in one sitting.”
Gallo, stoked by the taste of the big leagues, tried to cram in multiple adjustments to his hitting approach, hoping to make it hard for the Rangers not to send for him again quickly.
But he continued to struggle. The strikeouts kept mounting, which fueled the self-doubt and triggered more tinkering. He struck out 90 times in 53 games with Round Rock.
“I think this season was the first time he ever struggled in his life,” said Michael Young, who has helped mentor Gallo, including a recent visit to Round Rock. “He’s been so dominant at every single level. Joey wants to be a dominant player. He wants to be that All-Star.”
Gallo, Young said, needs to cut himself some slack.
“The biggest thing for him is making sure he doesn’t take it so hard when things don’t go his way,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast. You’re going to have stretches where things just don’t go your way. The guys that had the most success are the ones who still walked around with their chest out, and never ever questioned themselves and walked around with complete and total confidence.”
It was an eye-opening, if agonizing, experience for Gallo, who rejoined the Rangers on Tuesday as rosters expanded to 40 players.
He started in left field Wednesday night and struck out three times on 10 pitches. The open stance that Gallo started using a few weeks ago was futile. It’s how he grew up hitting, so the hope was that, along with perhaps picking the ball up quicker, it would give him some comfort in the box.
He started in left field Wednesday and struck out three times on 10 pitches. The open stance that Gallo started using a few weeks ago was futile.
“There’s a time when young hitters do have measured struggles and it’s, ‘uh oh, I need to fix something,’” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “They’re not getting the numbers or the performance and then all of a sudden you look up and that scoreboard says .180, .170, .210 and now you’re trying to get three hits in one at-bat. You’re putting undue stress and strain and pressure on yourself.”
It’s part of the process of becoming a major league hitter, Banister said.
“When they come out on the other side, the next time they face that [snaps his fingers], they reach down in their tool box and take out that tool,” he said. “‘I’ve been here before. I know what it feels like and I can move on past. It doesn’t hurt as much, it doesn’t last as long.’”
Gallo is not there yet, of course. He’s still trying to figure it out.
“I went down [to Round Rock] and tried to make too many adjustments. A lot of things started coming at me and I kind of lost a feel for my swing and my approach,” he said. “Coming down from the majors and you think you’re going to play great and things didn’t go my way. That was tough to go down and struggle.”
The call-up for Gallo, while a legitimate threat off the bench, could be a way of helping clear his head, relax, and learn from veterans such as Beltre, Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton, to get more of the same advice that Young offered.
“Baseball is lot more mentally grueling than physically, so he talked to me about everything, life, whatever,” Gallo said. “The mental side of the game, things that helped him. He was a great help for me. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done.”
I have complete confidence and faith in this kid. He’s a good one. He’s got some things to learn, but who doesn’t? That’s the beauty of the big leagues.
Former Rangers star Michael Young
The pressure Gallo was putting on himself, while also adjusting to Triple A, was all too much, Young said.
“Keep in mind, Joey is a young kid. He’s learning what it means to have success at this level,” Young said. “That’s a tough adjustment to make. A lot of people expect you to go down and just kill it.
“Ability-wise Joey is the cream of the crop at that level, but at the same time it’s difficult for a kid to gather his thoughts again and get refocused when he leaves basically a pennant-race team playing in front of 30,000 people in the stands and you go to Triple A where there’s nobody.”
Young expects Gallo to use this experience as a springboard for next season.
“I have complete confidence and faith in this kid. He’s a good one. He’s got some things to learn, but who doesn’t? That’s the beauty of the big leagues,” he said.
“It’s matter of him using his time wisely, improving and learning from the guys on this team and taking it into 2016 with a full head of steam. I see huge things for Joey.”
Joey Gallo’s production since the Rangers drafted him in the first round in 2012: