Texas Rangers

All or nothing? Joey Gallo is essentially the same player, but he's striving for consistency

Joey Gallo works every day to change who he is as a hitter, but the work hasn't yielded the results he was seeking entering this season.
Joey Gallo works every day to change who he is as a hitter, but the work hasn't yielded the results he was seeking entering this season. The Associated Press

The last time the Texas Rangers ventured into Dodger Stadium, before the two-game series that ended Wednesday, was almost three years ago to the day.

Adrian Beltre was on the disabled list with a mangled thumb, and rookie Joey Gallo had been in the major leagues for just more than two weeks to replace Beltre at third base.

In the opener, June 17, 2015, Gallo connected for the most famous home run so far in his career, crushing a Clayton Kershaw pitch an estimated 439 feet deep into the right-field pavilion.

"I just swung, and the ball was right where I swung," Gallo said. "I remember looking up and being like, 'Wow, I actually hit a ball off him.' And then it ended up going out, and I was like, 'Holy ... , I just hit a home run off Clayton Kershaw.'"

Three years later, Gallo says that he is essentially the same player — an all-or-nothing type — and that's what troubles him but also what drives him. No Rangers fan, coach, executive or teammate wants Gallo to be more complete at the plate than he does.

Now in his fourth season — but just his second full season — he and the Rangers continue to see signs of progress as the numbers suggest that the slugger is regressing.

"I'm not necessarily a different player, but I'm a different person and have a different outlook on things," Gallo said. "As a player, I still strike out a lot, hit home runs and walk a lot. That's going to be tough for me to break.

"As a hitter, I'm still trying to get where I'm more evolved as a more complete hitter. It's harder with the shift. It takes away a lot of line drives I hit to right field, but I'm trying to become a overall better hitter."

Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo saw the Houston Astros use four outfielders against him Thursday, prompting whether he should bunt more.

Ah, the shifts. They typically work like a charm against Gallo, except when he hits the ball over the fence or finds a gap or finds and unpopulated area in right field. His rarely hits the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield, hence the wild shifts.

The most notable exception came Friday, when he beat the Houston Astros' shift with a bunt single off Justin Verlander. Gallo might need to do that more often, and the Rangers have to capitalize on it, if he is to make defenses less shift-happy.

But the Rangers don't necessarily want Gallo to become a prolific bunter. More often that not, they will want him to drive the ball. That doesn't mean he should swing to hit home runs, but rather just not do anything different than normal.

"When Joey's going well, he doesn't hit into the shift. He hits it over the shift," Banister said. "For Joe, just continue to work at making more consistent contact."

Banister said that Gallo and Nomar Mazara are the two Rangers hitters affected most by shifts, but Mazara uses his hands better to hit the ball the other way. Sometimes, though, pitchers pound away inside and don't allow them to do anything other than pull the ball into the shift.

Gallo's focus is driving the ball gap to gap, which he did more earlier in the season than he has of late. Gallo entered Wednesday with a .199 average, a .752 OPS, a team-high 17 homers, 29 walks and an MLB-high 96 strikeouts in 67 games.

Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo reflects on the 2012 AZL Rangers, a team that has produced 10 major leaguers. Five of them are on the Rangers’ roster.

After 67 games last season, he was batting .201 with a .820 OPS, 19 homers, 28 walks and 95 strikeouts.

Not a massive step back, and a big step forward mentally from the 2015 Gallo.

"I was trying to find my way," he said. "Just a different mentality. I wanted success right away, and I wanted everyone to like me. Now, I realize it's a process and you get better little by little, and I don't really care anymore if anyone likes me. I'm much different."

The improvements are there. The key is showing them more consistently.

"You see some flashes in there," Banister said. "Joey's not a ground-ball guy, so he's not looking to maneuver the ball. He's trying to drive the ball in that direction. He continues to work at it. There are signs inside of some of the at-bats, and then there are times when he's got to go up looking to drive the baseball."

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