Even after all these years — 19 of them, to be exact — Opening Day means something special to Adrian Beltre, and there isn’t one thing Texas Rangers third baseman won’t hate that he is missing as he starts the 2017 season on the 10-day disabled list.
“Everything about it,” Beltre said. “The excitement about the first game, the whole team being together for the first time, and knowing that this is it, starting the first of hopefully more than 162 games and the long journey of trying to accomplish what we want to do.”
Alas, the start to Beltre’s 20th big-league season is on hold until at least April 9, the first day he is eligible for reinstatement from the DL. No matter how long his right calf continues to bark, his replacement plans to soak in whatever comes his way.
Joey Gallo will be the Rangers’ starting third baseman at 6:05 p.m. Monday against the Cleveland Indians at Globe Life Park. Some would have thought that Gallo would have been part of a season opener by now.
He’s been a Rangers prospect for what feels like a decade, but Gallo is still only 23 years old. He’s still developing, still learning, and still a player the Rangers covet and haven’t let slip away at the past two trade deadlines.
Gallo might not last more than a week with the Rangers to start the season, but the changes his teammates and the coaching staff saw in him during spring training could soon have him on the way to permanent summertime residence in Arlington.
By finding a routine that works, by riding the lows with the same temperament as the highs, and by realizing that challenges of playing at baseball’s highest level, Gallo has taken the steps that all players must take.
“There’s no doubt that Joey believes in his own skill level and talent level, and he’s right,” manager Jeff Banister said. “However, it’s what can we do to create consistency for success? I think he’s taken those steps.
“He can breathe deeply now, kind of exhale, and say, ‘You know what? I know this is what I need to do and just stick to it.’ ”
That doesn’t mean that suddenly Gallo will dramatically cut down on his strikeouts. He’s going to strike out. But he has a better idea of what it takes for him to be successful while learning more and more how opposing teams will attempt to get him out.
Gallo batted only .208 during spring training and struck out 23 times in 53 at-bats. But the power was there, the patience was there at times, and the approach was the same no matter how well he was doing.
There were a few tweaks to his swing, but nothing that was brought on by panic. Instead of white-knuckling things, Gallo now has one hand on his baseball steering wheel.
“I’m starting to learn myself a little more at the plate,” said Gallo, who went only 1 for 25 last season with the Rangers. “I opened up my stance again like I used to have a little early in my career, and I feel a lot more comfortable like that. I’m just going up there and trying to take what we call ‘A swings’ every at-bat. Get off three ‘A swings’ and you should be happy.”
Beltre will be on hand as he continues to recover from a strain in his right calf. Coupled with the early-camp strain in his left calf, the Rangers believe that Beltre needs some extra time to build up stamina for the grind of the season.
He expects to miss the minimum of five games, at which time Gallo could be optioned to Triple A Round Rock.
“We’re going to see how it goes, but that’s our plan,” Beltre said. “I definitely probably could play with this, but there’s a lot or risk of injuring it and making it worse.”
Gallo is one of nine Rangers to make an Opening Day roster for the first time in their careers, along with outfielder Nomar Mazara; infielders Jurickson Profar and Drew Robinson; left-handers Alex Claudio and Dario Alvarez; and right-handers Matt Bush, Jose Leclerc and Mike Hauschild.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, really exciting, I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can and, obviously, try to help the team win in any way I can,” Gallo said. “It should be an exciting time for a few guys in this clubhouse, not just me.”