Texas Rangers

Rangers still expect Gallo to play again this season, but he’s just trying to get a grip

Does Joey Gallo think he should have won All-Star MVP?

Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo answers the big question fans have after the All-Star Game: Does he believe he should have won the MVP award?
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Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo answers the big question fans have after the All-Star Game: Does he believe he should have won the MVP award?

A late arrival Sunday, an early start Monday and ideal napping weather made for a sleepy group of Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium.

It was a dreary morning in the Bronx.

Among those who did have their motors revving was Joey Gallo.

His workload has increased with each passing day since his July 25 operation to remove the broken hamate bone from his right hand. He has advanced to the point where he should take batting practice on the field during the three-game series against the New York Yankees.

The Rangers took the opener Monday after nearly a three-hour rain delay, blanking the Yankees 7-0 as Mike Minor tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings while giving up five hits.

“I probably have to hit on the field a little while and then see live pitching,” Gallo said. “I’d assume a couple weeks.”

That timeline would leave plenty of at-bats for Gallo to collect before the season ends, and the Rangers expect Gallo to be able to play.

Gallo seems less sure.

His grip still isn’t as strong as it needs to be to endure his violent swing, and his hand is worn out after only 25 or 30 swings. Gallo isn’t sure that a 2019 return is worthwhile if he’s able to take a swing at only 80 percent.

“That’s my biggest concern, not having a grip on the bat when I swing,” Gallo said. “Now it’s just about getting the grip back.

“It would be good to get some games, but I want to get into the game when I have the highest chance to compete.”

Mike Minor tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings as the Rangers blanked the Yankees 7-0 and handed the fearsome New York lineup its first shut out in 220 games. Delino DeShields connected for a three-run homer in the eighth to account, and Shin-Soo Choo and Jose Trevino had solo shots.

A Gallo swing at 80 percent is still as strong as most big-league hitters. Rangers hitting coach Luis Ortiz has been telling Gallo that since they started working together over the winter.

Gallo has never dealt with this kind of injury, so there is plenty of unknown as he keeps working toward a return. He also seems concerned about entering the off-season in a fog if he returns but can’t produce.

“I’m worried about getting back on the field healthy,” he said. “I don’t want to get back in September and not perform and have that hanging over me in the off-season.”

Gallo was an All-Star for the first time in his career and should have been the game MVP for his seventh-inning home run in the first All-Star at-bat of his career. However, Gallo’s average dropped 22 points to start the second half in part because of the injury.

Manager Chris Woodward said the fear of failure is no reason for Gallo not to play if he is able. Woodward said that if the healthy first half is an indication, Gallo shouldn’t struggle.

Gallo is batting .253 with 22 home runs, a .598 slugging percentage and a .986 OPS.

“If there’s a massive amount of pain and it’s messing up his swing, absolutely I don’t want to do that,” Woodward said. “If it feels OK and the pain isn’t getting in the way of his swing and he just doesn’t have a good swing, I would rather him play. I don’t want him to go out there and be awful for two weeks. It doesn’t make any sense. But I don’t think he will be.”

But if the strength in Gallo’s hand remains slow to return or if there is a sharp increase in the pain he feels, the Rangers will have to consider if shutting Gallo down is the best move.

The Miami Marlins made a similar call on Giancarlo Stanton in 2015 after he broke his hamate bone in late June of that season. Stanton was shut down for the Marlins’ final six games.

The original timeline for his return was the same as Gallo’s, four to six weeks.

“I’m pretty confident he will be back in the first two weeks of September,” Woodward said. “We have 10 to 15 games I think he’ll get in. If it gets down to less than 10, then, yeah, maybe we have to make a decision.”

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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.