Texas Rangers

Joey Gallo goes deep within himself for a new plan at the plate

Joey Gallo explains his improved approach this spring

Rangers slugger Joey Gallo explains how his altered approach this spring has helped him find his stroke (Video by Stefan Stevenson).
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Rangers slugger Joey Gallo explains how his altered approach this spring has helped him find his stroke (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

Rangers slugger-in-waiting Joey Gallo has gone deep this spring.

For the moment, we’re not talking home run deep, although that’s also been an increasingly recurring theme of late.

Before spring training even started a month ago, Gallo, the still young, hulking slugger who has been a prospective darling of the up-and-coming new wave of major league talent for several years now, dedicated himself to altering how he approaches hitting.

Gallo, 23, has gone deep into what he does well at the plate, what works for him and what gets him trouble. With the help of coaches throughout the organization and a sports psychiatrist during the off-season and into spring training, he has devised a plan for the plate, an approach that he hopes not only helps him be the slugger he expects to be, but also to earn a spot on the Rangers’ 25-man roster.

For me, that’s what it’s about. Control what you can control and the other things are just going to be noise. It’s just about staying in my own lane and enjoying the process and the ride and not worry about what’s going on outside of that.

Rangers’ Joey Gallo

First was to learn that strikeouts will forever be part of his baseball oeuvre. Instead of fearing them, which, in the past, could hinder Gallo’s natural power by altering his swing in unfavorable counts, he’s learning to accept them. More important, he’s no longer letting them affect his thinking for future at-bats.

From the beginning of the spring schedule, it was apparent he had altered his approach. He was being selective at the plate, even picky at time, laying off pitches he may have expected to be called a strike but knew he couldn’t drive.

“I’m in a spot where I feel really good. Taking good swings and having a good approach at the plate and taking pitches that are borderline, pitches that I can’t hit,” he said. “I’ve been good in that aspect so I’m excited about that.”

Rangers manager Jeff Banister says Joey Gallo has matured into a more patient hitter this spring (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

Especially gratifying for Gallo and the Rangers’ staff who have shepherded his transition at the plate has been the slow but steady progress that has been evident the past week.

After he started the spring 2 for 20 with nine strikeouts and one homer, Gallo’s approach, as he’s become increasingly comfortable with it, has started to pay off big. In his last eight games, he’s 7 of 22 with 10 strikeouts and two homers. He has even walked six times. The success, the kind of success that shows up in box scores, goes a long way in reemphasizing his plan.

After starting the spring 2 for 20 with nine strikeouts and a homer, Joey Gallo has gone 7 for 22 with 10 strikeouts and two homers.

“For me, that’s what is special,” he said. “When I put the bat on the ball the ball is hit a lot harder than a normal person and the ball is hit a lot farther than a normal person. So it’s just about putting the bat on the ball. There are going to be strikeouts. This spring I’ve had strikeouts. But they’re not flailing and missing pitches or where I’ve been overmatched.”

In Sunday’s game, Gallo was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against two tough Seattle Mariners left-handers. He struck out swinging both times at pitches down in the zone. More often this spring, he has taken a pitch even with two strikes.

“Like a 3-2 slider from a lefty the other day ... it was right there and I took it and they called it a strike,” he said. “It’s a strikeout. It’s going to happen.”

“I can strike out,” he added, as if to remind himself that a strikeout is part of his power game. “It’s not like I’m going up there saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to strike out.’ I’m going up there trying to do damage every at-bat because that’s my job and that’s what I do well.”

It’s the same with a power pitcher, Gallo said. A guy who regularly hits 98 mph with his fastball isn’t going to dial it down to 89 just to make sure he throws a strike.

“He’s going to go out there and do what he can do. That’s my approach now,” he said. “The strikeouts are going to be there but what are you doing when you do put the bat on the ball? That’s the most important thing for me and that’s why I think I’ve done really well this spring even with some of the strikeouts that are in there.”

I think it shows him the discipline of being inside that approach and sticking to it and how important that is.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister

One of the silver linings of this being a World Baseball Classic year is that it has given young players in the organization a chance to get more major league spring at-bats. For Gallo, that means about 25 percent more, manager Jeff Banister reasoned. That time has allowed Gallo’s plan to play out and let him find success.

“The repetition for him has been significant this year,” Banister said. “What it has allowed him to do is come in with the mindset that he’s going to have an approach early on, to see pitches, getting himself comfortable in the batter’s box.”

He’s been able to eliminate the sense of urgency in his plate appearances, Banister said.

Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields had two hits and two stolen bases Sunday afternoon in a 3-2 win over the Mariners (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

“He doesn’t have to fall into the trap of succumbing to the urgency on the outside. He can stay within his own game plan. And I think he’s executed that very well,” Banister said. “I think it’s been extremely beneficial for him, not only physically, but the mental approach. I think it shows him the discipline of being inside that approach and sticking to it and how important that is.”

Of course, pressure does remain for Gallo, who is trying to make the 25-man roster for the first time in his career. It’s still not a given, despite Gallo’s ability to play first base, corner outfield, or his natural third base. Others, including Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields, have had excellent springs.

“I’m taking it as this is the season for me,” he said. “I’m trying to make the team so there is that added pressure for me and the way I’ve been handling it is fine. I haven’t had any anxiety, haven’t been nervous for any game, I’ve just been excited to play every day and whoever is on the mound I just go out there and take my swing and let things happen.”

Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish said he expects to stay in his five-day rotation despite heading home to Texas for the pending birth of his son (Video by Stefan Stevenson).

Up next

vs. Padres, 9:10 p.m. Monday, FSSW Plus

Rangers probable pitchers: RHP Nick Martinez, RHP R.J. Alvarez, LHP Dario Alvarez, LHP Wesley Wright, RHP Jeremy Jeffress

Padres probable pitchers: LHP Clayton Richard

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

Seattle

200

000

000

2

Texas

002

100

00x

3

Seattle ab

r

h

bi

Texas ab

r

h

bi

Heredia cf

4

1

0

0

DShelds cf

3

1

2

0

T.Mtter lf

4

1

2

0

Taveras cf

1

0

0

0

Haniger rf

3

0

1

1

Sh.Choo rf

2

0

1

0

Vlencia 3b

2

0

0

0

T.Snder pr

1

0

0

0

Z.Shank 3b

0

0

0

0

C.Gomez dh

3

1

1

2

Vglbach 1b

3

0

0

0

J.Hying ph

1

0

0

0

B.Gamel lf

1

0

0

0

J.Gallo lf

3

0

0

0

O’Neill dh

4

0

1

1

C.Pello lf

1

0

0

0

Gswisch c

3

0

0

0

Rya.Rua 1b

2

1

2

1

N.Ashly c

1

0

0

0

Gzman ph

2

0

0

0

Freeman 2b

3

0

1

0

Mddbrks 3b

2

0

0

0

Rengifo 2b

1

0

0

0

T.Frbes 3b

2

0

1

0

T.Smith ss

3

0

0

0

Rbinson 2b

3

0

0

0

A.Tjeda 2b

1

0

0

0

Jimenez c

3

0

2

0

Bernier ss

3

0

0

0

Totals 32

2

5

2

Totals 33

3

9

3

E—Valencia (2), Freeman (7), Bernier (1). LOB—Seattle 6, Texas 7. 2B—Haniger (6). HR—Gomez (3), Rua (3). SB—Motter (5), DeShields 2 (7), Snider (1).

Seattle

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Overton

3

3

2

0

0

4

Fien L, 0-1

1

2

1

1

0

2

Rzepczynski

1

2

0

0

0

2

Hagadone

2

2

0

0

0

2

Machi

1

0

0

0

0

0

Texas

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Gamboa W, 1-0

5

5

2

0

1

6

Bush H, 1

2

0

0

0

0

2

Kela S, 1-1

2

0

0

0

1

1

HBP—by—Gamboa (Haniger). WP—Gamboa. Umpires—Home, Alan Porter; First, Roberto Ortiz; Second, Garrett Patterson; Third, John Tumpane. T—2:36. A—6,395

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