One-trick pony no more: Gallo emerges in '21

Rangers welcome Holt, Calhoun back to lineup Saturday

April 17th, 2021

Joey Gallo has been traditionally known as a one-trick pony since his MLB debut in 2015. He has two 40-homer seasons (2017-18) and a career OPS of .825 entering play Saturday. But in '21, Gallo is so much more.

Gallo’s slash line of .256/.467/.326 through 14 games doesn’t tell the full story of how he has become a more well-rounded player overall. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Gallo is still athletic enough to be effective on the basepaths, as well as at the plate.

Going into Saturday’s matchup with the Orioles, he led MLB in walks with 14, had two stolen bases to already match his 2020 total and while he only had one home run on the season, he’s more than happy to continue hitting singles on line drives across the field.

“It shows I don't need to hit for power to still be effective, so I think that's pretty cool,” Gallo said. “At the same time, [hitting home runs] is just not what the team needs from me right now. The team needs for me to get on base and keep the line moving for the guys behind me."

Manager Chris Woodward agrees that the Rangers don’t need Gallo to be a 40-homer guy to be a successful club. With him batting in the three-hole this season instead of cleanup, it’s allowed even more RBI opportunities for the guys behind him in the lineup.

That’s clearly shown up in the numbers. Nate Lowe and Nick Solak, the two guys usually batting in the Nos. 4-5 spots in the lineup, are Texas’ top-two RBI leaders with Lowe at 15 and Solak at eight.

Because of his pure power, Gallo will get the home runs eventually. But his ability to get on base and control the strike zone speaks volumes of his offseason work, Woodward emphasized. It won’t help the club to try and force home runs right now.

“When Joey gets hot, [home runs] tend to come. And they come in bunches,” Woodward said. “Obviously [when] he hits the ball in the air, off his barrel, it doesn't usually come back; so right now, he's just staying patient. I'd like him to be a little bit more aggressive at times, but overall, when you're getting on base at the [rate] he's getting on base, he's allowing our offense to do a lot of positive things.”

Gallo put in the effort over the last few years to become a more well-rounded player. He said that he remembers that people called him “the worst 40-home run hitter” and he has worked to become more than just that. It started with his defense, where he won an American League Gold Glove in right field in 2020, and he has developed into even more at the plate in ‘21.

Gallo is also not worried about the naysayers anymore. While he doesn’t really use social media much, he’s focused on the task at hand -- becoming a better player and leader for the Rangers.

“I just tried to focus on ... what's going on in our clubhouse, what's going on within our team and within our walls, that's really it,” Gallo said. “I don't really focus too much anymore like what the media is saying and stats and how other players are doing, stuff like that. I just focus on the task at hand and that's for us to win a game today. And tomorrow is going to be the same thing.”

Roster moves
The Rangers activated both infielder Brock Holt and outfielder Willie Calhoun from the 10-day injured list Saturday. Calhoun had been dealing with a left groin strain since early in Spring Training, and Holt sustained a right hamstring strain during the Rangers' first homestand against Toronto.

Both were in the starting lineup for Saturday’s matchup against the Orioles with Holt at third base and Calhoun at designated hitter for his 2021 debut. Holt was hitting .250 at the plate before his IL stint. He and fellow veteran infielder Charlie Culberson were alternating games at third base in a platoon role.

Calhoun hit just .190 through 29 games in 2020, when he also battled injuries throughout the shortened season, including a fractured jaw in Spring Training, a strained oblique muscle and a left hamstring strain. He brings another power bat to the Rangers' lineup.

Infielder Anderson Tejeda and left-handed pitcher Wes Benjamin were both optioned to the alternate site in Round Rock to make room on the roster. Tejeda went just 1-for-16 since his callup following Holt’s injury. Benjamin, who typically pounds the strike zone, has struggled with his command early in the season, issuing six walks in 5 2/3 innings.

Gallo said that he talked to Calhoun a lot over the last couple weeks as he finished his rehab in Arizona and at the Round Rock alternate site.

“I want him to just be relaxed,” Gallo said. “I think he feels 100 percent now and that's the main thing for him. He's not battling through any injuries. He feels good mentally, and I think he can be a huge piece and help our lineup. For him, it's just relaxing and playing the game, and you know he's such a good hitter that good things are gonna happen.”