The first week of what originally was to be a three-week get-his-feet-wet tour of the major leagues came to an end Tuesday night for rookie slugger Joey Gallo.
Including his debut, in which he homered, drove in four runs and made some fans weak in the knees, Gallo batted .286 (8 for 28) with two homers, five RBIs, a .355 on-base percentage, a .536 slugging percentage, three walks, 14 strikeouts, two steals and two errors.
The third baseman also juggled being besieged by the media his first two days, and was left dumbfounded in two road cities when fans and, more likely, memorabilia dealers screamed for his autograph at the team hotel.
“I was standing right next to Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre,” Gallo said. “I’m like, ‘What the hell do they want my autograph for?’ They’re two future Hall of Famers. It’s kind of weird.”
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Those moments aren’t going to stop, and the media will be at his locker more often than not, as long as he’s a top prospect and continues on the path to future stardom.
That’s the purpose of his first big-league call-up, after all, to aid in his development and to get him comfortable with life in the big leagues.
So far, so good.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Gallo said. “I’m starting to figure it out. All teams are going to be a little different. I haven’t seen any of these pitchers, so it’s tough to go up there the first time facing them and have success not knowing how they pitch. But I’m making adjustments to it.”
The three opponents he has faced — the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s — haven’t taken it easy on him. Of the seven starters Gallo faced in his first seven games, four have been All-Stars at some point in their career, and four had ERAs no higher than 3.26.
Included in the stretch was White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, who has four consecutive games with at least 10 strikeouts, and A’s right-hander Sonny Gray, who entered Tuesday as the major league’s ERA leader.
“It’s wasn’t an easy week to get called up and play, but it’s good to face these guys,” Gallo said. “I’ve faced the best in the league. That’s what you want to do. It’s good experience for me.”
After Gallo’s big debut, in which Jeff Samardjiza challenged with fastballs and paid for it, teams quickly ditched anything straight. Sale and fellow lefty Carlos Rodon were tough on the lefty-hitting Gallo, who managed to collect a homer and a single off White Sox lefty relief specialist Zach Duke.
“More junk and off-speed pitches,” Gallo said. “I’ve had to make that adjustment. I can’t play it like the minor leagues, where 3-1 I know I’m going to get a cookie.”
Gallo had a three-game hitting streak on the line as the Rangers played a late game Wednesday at O.co Coliseum. He has also shown a steadier glove at third base after errors on the first two chances of his career.
His ability to start a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth inning Tuesday was a key element in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory.
“Joey made a really nice play,” right-hander Tanner Scheppers said. “That ball was dancing all over the place.”
Baseball isn’t all that the 21-year-old is trying to keep straight. He’s learning each city and each stadium. The travel is different than in the minors, better but still something new.
Rookies have a protocol to follow, and Gallo has received an assist from Delino DeShields on what to do before each game.
“We have to be on the first bus, and we have to hit before everybody else,” Gallo said. “It’s pretty easy. It’s a lot easier than in the minors.”
The minors, more specifically Triple A Round Rock, remains Gallo’s most likely destination once Adrian Beltre is healthy.
The initial diagnosis was Beltre would miss three weeks, give or take a few days, but that might be stretched out after Beltre reported being frustrated with the rate at which his sprained left thumb is healing.
Gallo could play his way into a longer stay after Beltre returns, though the Rangers will have another option at third base once Ryan Rua (ankle) completes his rehab assignment. The Rangers haven’t wavered from their stance that Gallo won’t be an option to play the outfield.
He’s got enough on his plate. But after his first week, which came to an end Tuesday, he’s starting to feel more comfortable in the majors.
“Joey has played very well for us,” manager Jeff Banister said. “The at-bats have progressively gotten better. They’re fun to watch. You can see the learning process going on in the batter’s box with Joey.
“He wants to be a complete player. Really, he wants to be that three-way player, a guy that runs the bases well, swings the bat and goes and plays defense.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760