Missing the first couple of weeks of the season is not what Joey Gallo wanted. The time away, however, added some perspective for the Texas Rangers’ top prospect, who returned to the field Saturday night with Double A Frisco.
“If anything, it helps you,” said Gallo, who had foot surgery April 3 to remove an OS Trigonum bone. “It kind of makes you miss the game, it makes you a little bit stronger.”
Gallo spent time in Surprise, Ariz., last week taking live at-bats and finishing his rehab. He played Tuesday, 18 days after his surgery. He missed three weeks in 2013 with a groin injury with Hickory.
Gallo said his defense and hitting weren’t affected by the injury. But he’s only at 90-95 percent running and will have to be cautious making turns during his return.
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More than anything, Gallo hopes to continue the improvements he made at the plate during his time in major league spring training. He showed more patience at the plate and better pitch recognition.
“It was good in spring training, so it kind of sucks to have to delay it and start all over again,” he said. “I think that might be a little tough adjustment in the beginning, but I felt good in Arizona. My main goal is to focus every pitch and try to have good at-bats and not give any away and keep the strike zone small.”
Much of that is a mental aspect of the game that Gallo has worked on since moving up to Double A a year ago.
“When I got called up last year I think I tried to do too much,” he said. “I tried to be a hero every game, and that’s not possible to do, especially in baseball. Make them throw to me and if they don’t I’ll take my bases. And we’ve got a tremendous lineup, so they’re going to have to throw to some of us.”
One of those hitters to whom Gallo is referring is outfielder Nick Williams. He leads the RoughRiders with a .388 batting average, fourth best in the Texas League. He went 3 for 4 Thursday and is second in the league with 19 hits before Saturday’s games. It’s a big improvement from a year ago when he joined Frisco for the last two weeks from High A Myrtle Beach. He hit .226 with 21 strikeouts in 15 games. Through 13 games this season he has seven strikeouts.
“I’ve been staying with my approach, and it’s been working out really well,” Williams said. “Being more patient and feeling relaxed in the box instead of being go, go, go and aggressive.”
Just like Gallo, Williams is trying to be more selective at the plate, waiting for a pitch he likes.
“I’m still aggressive, but I’ve swung at maybe five percent balls,” said Williams, a second-round selection out of Galveston Ball High School in 2012. “Making them come to me. [If] they come to me, I know I’m going get them.”
Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff was promoted from Frisco to Triple A Round Rock this week and didn’t mess around in his first start Friday for the Express. Eickhoff held Colorado Springs hitless through the first 8 1/3 innings before surrendering a two-run homer in the ninth. He tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts and walked two.