SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Joey Gallo in Spring Training this year is looking more like the Joey Gallo of 2019, when he was an American League All-Star.
The 27-year-old slugger is off to a near-perfect start in Cactus League play. Following a three-run home run and a double Thursday in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Padres at Surprise Stadium, Gallo is 4-for-6 in three games with seven RBIs and a walk. He has homered in each game.
It’s a sharp contrast to last year, when he posted a slash line of .181/.301/.378 in 226 plate appearances in the shortened season. Gallo said last season felt like a big rush to get ready, and it made for a more stressful start for himself and so many others. He missed the first week of Summer Camp after testing positive for COVID-19, though he said he experienced no symptoms.
“I think people underestimate how tough it was last year for us," Gallo said. "I just went out there and gave my best shot. I think this year, I'm a lot more loose, a lot more calm. I'm just going to try to enjoy the game and have fun but I know I have a lot more time to get ready for a season.”
Gallo said he feels better than he thought he would coming into the spring, both physically and mentally. He worked on changing a few things in the offseason and implementing them in the spring, like getting his launch angle back down and driving the ball more.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Gallo was in contact with the hitting coaches -- whom Gallo calls the best in the league -- all offseason to work through his process. Gallo changed things about his swing, his mechanics and even his body to become more relaxed at the plate.
Because of his struggling performance last season, he wanted to get off to a hot start early to prove he was back on track.
“I know it is Spring Training but they're important at-bats,” Gallo said. “It's easy to be positive when the results are positive all the time. I’m trying to work on the positivity [even when you struggle], it just helps when you put the results together.”
Woodward emphasized that not only is he making good contact with the ball, but he's having good at-bats and taking advantage of the counts.
Things like that show that his success so far is more than just Spring Training. More important, it showed that he took all the things he said he would work on and executed them in the offseason.
Woodward said having Gallo in a positive state of mind changes his outlook on the game itself, even if it is just Spring Training. Getting into a rhythm on and off the field was important.
Gallo said the atmosphere in the clubhouse has been amazing, and it’s easy to be positive in a place like that, especially in Spring Training, where everything feels easier and lighter.
“It's hard to get a read in Spring Training,” Gallo said. “Everybody's happy. You can go 0-for-4 and be happy. It's a different environment, but that's the kind of environment we want to create in the season. I think it's going to benefit us.
“That's just kind of the mentality I want to try to create now for myself and bring that into the season. I know I'm going to struggle sometimes; I know I'm going to have great games. But I just have to relax, have fun and try to put my best swing on the ball and see what happens.”
And even though getting off to a hot start in Spring Training is great, Gallo wants to make sure he can carry it into the regular season and beyond.
“Obviously, he helped us win our first game today,” Woodward said. “He had three homers in three games. It's awesome for him, and he knows, obviously, when the lights come on in the regular season, that's where he wants to be at his best. He couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.”