Mac Engel

Gallo to injured list a sign that he is not the Rangers’ long-term center fielder

Rangers manager Chris Woodward reacts to Adrian Sampson’s start against the Royals

After the Rangers defeat the Royals, manager Chris Woodward praises starting pitcher Adrian Sampson's career high 11 strikeouts.
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After the Rangers defeat the Royals, manager Chris Woodward praises starting pitcher Adrian Sampson's career high 11 strikeouts.

The Texas Rangers just put their American League MVP candidate on the injured list, and when Joseph Gallo returns this team should find a way to put him someplace other than center field.

Joey Gallo is having the season the club envisioned when it rushed him to the majors in 2015, and on Sunday he was placed on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain he suffered on Saturday. They are hoping this is only a two-week absence.

With Gallo out nursing a boo-boo, the Rangers won their third straight over the Double A Kansas City Royals, 5-1 on Sunday.

The Texas Rangers are 30-27, and judging by the attendance none of you care, or buy it. This is a nice little team that could be playing meaningful baseball for a few more months.

The team is exceeding all plausible expectations for this season, the last year at The Ballpark in Arlington. The over/under on the Rangers’ win total this season, per the good folks in Las Vegas, was 71.

The Rangers are an American League Wild Card team ... if only the season ended today rather than four months from now.

They have, however, arrived at that point in this Vegas-defying season when they have collided with the equivalent of a flu bug; when an MVP candidate goes on the IL, that’s typically affects the whole house. The only other time Gallo spent time on the IL was the concussion seven-day stint back in 2017.

This is new for him. Gallo said he said he spoke to outfielder Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who also had a similar injury.

“I wanted to know what he felt when he got his MRI,” Gallo said Sunday morning. “He said it’s better to be on the back side, and all the trainers said that, too. His was more significant than mine. His was, he said, a tear. Mine was a strain. I am not going to miss time like he did.”

In September 2016, Judge suffered his oblique strain and was out for the rest of the year.

Gallo should only miss about two weeks. Don’t necessarily trust that; this is baseball, and it always seems to take longer than the prognosis.

“It stinks because I want to help the team win,” he said. “There is never a good time to get hurt, but playing well is the worst time to get hurt.”

No argument here. Gallo has 17 home runs, 41 RBIs, and is becoming a more selective hitter, even though he has 76 strikeouts.

When he does return, the club’s priority for Gallo should be to find him a better spot than center. Although this injury likely has nothing to do with his time at that position, asking a man this big to carry the load in center field is begging for injury.

The U.S.S. Gallo is 6-foot-5, 235 pounds. That’s a lot of human being to ask to play the most demanding outfield position for an entire season. Because he is 25, the wear and tear is not going to be a problem yet, but he cannot be a long term solution at this spot.

“I don’t see him being a long-term player there; maybe another a year or two,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said after the game. “I worry about his body. I ask him all the time how he’s feeling. I don’t want him to ‘Tough guy’ me.’

“It’s so much on a guy, and I think after a while it would take away his power. I think it would affect his legs. I don’t want to do that to him.”

Gallo should be a left fielder, third baseman, or first baseman. He’s not close to the full-time DH spot in his career.

In 25 games as a center fielder this season, Gallo has demonstrated he is an adequate defensive player at the second most important position defensively on the field (shortstop is No. 1). He is not Willie Mays in center, but he is fast, has a nice arm, and he has steadily improved.

The problem, currently, is he is the Rangers’ best center fielder today.

Danny Santana started in center on Sunday, and the team recalled Delino DeShields from the minors (again). Woodward said he’s going to give DeShields every chance to play.

The Rangers are a nice little team, and Gallo is one of the biggest reasons.

They may be able to get away with playing him in center a bit longer, but they need to move him to another spot sooner rather than later.

CAREER DAY FOR SAMPSON

There are many reasons why the Rangers are three games over .500, with pitcher Adrian Sampson near the top of the list.

The starting pitcher on Sunday, he improved to 4-3 and struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings against the Royals. He has now won four straight decisions; the three previous wins came in appearances where he had an “opener” to start the game.

“He didn’t feel that great today. Physically he wasn’t at his best and he went out there, that was amazing what he did. It showed me a lot,” Woodward said.

In the fifth inning, Sampson loaded the bases with no outs but did not allow a run. He induced a lineout and then struck out the next two batters.

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