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Gallo prepared to be Rangers' regular in right

Calhoun has opposite corner spot all but locked up
January 21, 2020

DALLAS -- Rangers slugger Joey Gallo is accustomed to talking about playing a new position, having been shuffled several times in his five years in Texas. He came to the Majors in 2015 as a third baseman but then played more in the outfield his first two seasons with the

DALLAS -- Rangers slugger Joey Gallo is accustomed to talking about playing a new position, having been shuffled several times in his five years in Texas.

He came to the Majors in 2015 as a third baseman but then played more in the outfield his first two seasons with the Rangers. In 2017, they made him into a first baseman, but he ended up spending the majority of his time at third again that season. He was a left fielder in 2018 and a center fielder in 2019.

Now he has another new spot in 2020, though he joked at Tuesday’s minicamp that it probably wouldn’t last long.

“It’ll be fun to be a right fielder for the first week of the season and then get moved,” he said, and then, in a nod to general manager Jon Daniels, Gallo added, ‘Just kidding, J.D.’

“I know I can be an elite right fielder … Just growing up, you talk about right field: power arm, power bat, pretty good athlete and big guy, and I just always felt like, ‘I’m a right fielder’. I think I’m kind of the prototypical right fielder. I think that position fits me well.”

Gallo will be glad to be anywhere on the field this year after he missed much of 2019 due to injuries. He was out for most of June with a left oblique strain and then didn’t play after July 23 due to surgery to repair a broken bone in his right wrist.

“I’ve been out for a while -- I haven’t played a baseball game for a minute now,” Gallo said. “I’m very excited to get to Spring Training. I’m counting down the days to get there.”

Though the injuries made him scarce, Gallo was as productive as he has ever been in the 70 games he played last season. He hit .253 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .598 slugging percentage. He didn’t have enough qualifying plate appearances, but his .986 OPS would’ve been the highest in a single season since Mike Napoli (1.046) in 2011.

Now 26, Gallo is maturing into his role as one of the Rangers’ highest-profile players -- last season’s All-Star nod was his first -- and he says he’s “100 percent” healthy going into Spring Training.

“I want to continue the path that I was on last year,” Gallo said. “Continue to be a leader in the clubhouse, a voice for the team. I want to take the next steps to eventually be the face of this team. I think on the field, what I was doing last year, I was very proud of that. I thought I did a really good job.

“Defensively, I know there’s a lot of places I can improve on, and then offensively, just continue to hit the ball hard and swing at strikes and try to keep my strikeouts a little bit down, but that’s about it.”

Gallo struck out 114 times in 297 plate appearances -- a 38.3 percent strikeout rate. That may be one of the only major criticisms anyone has left for him, even if it doesn’t bother him anymore.

“I’m always going to be above league average,” Gallo said. “We’ve figured that out. It’s just who I am. If I can do like last year -- I struck out a lot, but when I did put the ball in play, there was damage, and I walked a lot. That’s going to be big for me to just continue to get on base and slug.”

Calhoun has left field all but locked up

After Willie Calhoun had a breakout second half last season, the Rangers were comfortable enough with him in the everyday lineup to trade away outfield regulars Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara during the offseason. With Spring Training games still a month away, manager Chris Woodward was hesitant to anoint Calhoun as the starting left fielder when he addressed the media at the team’s minicamp Tuesday, but said the left field job is “pretty much [Calhoun's].”

That contrasts with last spring, when Calhoun was sent down to Triple-A Nashville just before the end of camp and had to wait for injuries to clear a space for him in Texas, where he hit 21 homers with an .848 OPS in 83 games for the Rangers after being called up in June.

“This year’s my first Spring Training where I can take a deep breath and make sure I’ll be ready for a full year,” Calhoun said.

With no room in rotation, Woodward preaches patience to young starters

Prospects Kolby Allard, Brock Burke and Joe Palumbo made a combined 19 starts between them last season, all as rookies, but none is expected to figure into the starting rotation when the season begins after the Rangers bolstered the staff with Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles in the offseason.

The Rangers said Tuesday that Burke has been sidelined with elbow discomfort since December and will be behind schedule in Spring Training. Allard and Palumbo will at least have a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

“Whoever the sixth guy is, it’s going to be a pretty heavy competition,” Woodward said. “He might actually start on our team. Somebody may not be ready for Spring Training or somebody may go down. We’re going to need nine or 10 starting pitchers, it’s a fact.”

Rangers beat

Brendan Sagara has been hired as the Triple-A Nashville Sounds pitching coach and special assistant of player development. He has been a pitching coach in some capacity for the past 20 years. Greg Hibbard was named Minor League roving pitching instructor and Kevin Torres was hired as coach for the Class A Advanced Down East Wood Ducks.