Texas Rangers

How a hitless week might serve Gallo well in his season of sticking to the process

Joey Gallo’s approach pleases manager Chris Woodward

Joey Gallo snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a home run and later added two more hits Monday as the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels. Rangers manager Chris Woodward was excited.
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Joey Gallo snapped an 0-for-16 slump with a home run and later added two more hits Monday as the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels. Rangers manager Chris Woodward was excited.

Joey Gallo was the kind of sick Sunday where people didn’t want him near them.

It was only an inner-ear infection, as it turns out, but it came with a lot of misery and a fever of 102.5 degrees.

That was Gallo’s ticket home.

Full of meds and a good night’s sleep, Gallo was feeling much better Monday and returned to the Texas Rangers’ lineup. The hope was his swing is feeling better, too.

It was, and he was a key factor in the Rangers’ 12-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

Failing is part of the process he’s going through, too. And so is continuing to believe that his new tools will build him into a more complete hitter.

It’s not as easy as he was making it work the first 10 games of the season.

“I got anxious chasing some pitches, but I’m just trying to tone it down and get back to getting pitches in the zone,” Gallo said.

“It’s tough to always have that perfect approach at the plate and not ever chase out of the zone. But you’re not always going to be perfect. You’re going to go through funks. I was saying that even when I was killing it. It is what it is. That’s baseball, and that’s the way it goes.”

Gallo entered the opener of the three-game series riding an 0-for-15 slump that had dropped his average to .171. He grounded out weakly in his first at-bat, but clubbed his fifth homer in the third to forge a 4-4 tie and punched a single to left field in the fifth to put the Rangers up 5-4 and spark a four-run inning.

He struck out in the seventh, but started the eighth with double into the right-field corner to cap a 3-for-5 night lifted his average back to .217. Gallo still ranked among league leaders entering the day in walks and pitchers per plate appearance, both of which are encouraging. But those numbers might be a bit too good.

Manager Chris Woodward said that past week turned into seven days of learning for Gallo, who spent ample time talking to his coaches in depth about what he was feeling at the plate.

As Woodward explained it, Gallo was too patient in his approach and not able to get his swing off in time on pitches he should have been hitting. When he did decide to go after a pitch, he couldn’t hold up if it wasn’t a strike.

Gallo is letting pitches travel deeper, but he now needs to add some control to his swing.

“It’s a really difficult thing for a young hitter,” Woodward said. “He was stubborn in the strike zone, but he was late on the baseball and felt like he was missing some pitches. For him to be a truly get to where he can be an elite elite player, there has to be a point where he has to trust, ‘I can still sell out to the pitch I’m looking for and still take a pitch.”

And guess what? It’s OK for a hitter to chase.

“Anybody who’s a zero percent chase guy isn’t going to hit,” Woodward said. “When a ball is coming in at 97 mph, I don’t have time to just go, ‘Oh, is that a strike?’ But when you can sell you to the point where you can so, ‘OK, I’m going to hit the ball, and I’m going to drive this ball,’ and at the last second have the mechanics and the mind-set to say, ‘No, that’s not the pitch I’m looking for.’ “

Gallo goes from 0 to 100 when he does decide to swing, Woodward said, and needs to moderate that as Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo can do. That’s especially so with runners in scoring position.

Woodward said that the lineup has been exposed somewhat to their impatience in those situations. Pitchers are taking advantage of their desire to get the runners home and getting hitters to chase.

Gallo is one of them. And each missed chance felt to him as if he was letting them down, to which Woodward said hogwash, or something like that.

Baseball is a hard game, too hard to continually carry that kind of weight.

“He’s open to a lot of things,” Woodward said. “He’s talking about it. When you’re able to accept that you’re not perfect and you don’t have to be perfect, then you get real growth. “

Gallo seemed to be in a good place, and in better health, Monday.

“The process isn’t just success. It’s failures and ups and downs,” he said. “It’s about getting back into that approach again. I think just started trying to do too much. That’s part of it. I’m not going to be perfect every at-bat.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.