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Rangers still seeking Gallo's best defensive fit

August 28, 2018

ARLINGTON -- Joey Gallo made his fourth start in center field for the Rangers on Tuesday, although manager Jeff Banister admitted that is not the ideal spot for a 6-foot-5, 230-pound slugger.Gallo is playing there so that Banister can get him, Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara in the same outfield

ARLINGTON -- Joey Gallo made his fourth start in center field for the Rangers on Tuesday, although manager Jeff Banister admitted that is not the ideal spot for a 6-foot-5, 230-pound slugger.
Gallo is playing there so that Banister can get him, Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara in the same outfield while Adrian Beltre is being used at designated hitter.
"When you look at the positions on the field and the overall wear and tear, center field, outside of catcher, is the one that takes the most abuse, especially the lower half -- diving, running into walls," Banister said. "We like Joey out there on occasion, don't know it's something we like long-term, even on the corners, with that big body, it's a challenge."
Delino DeShields and Carlos Tocci have been the Rangers' center fielders for most of the season. DeShields is on the disabled list with a fractured tip of the right middle finger and began a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on Tuesday night.
"Obviously I'm not a center fielder," Gallo said. "I just fill in when I need to. Whatever is best for the team. I'll play wherever I can help us win games. That's where we are at right now."
The Rangers entered the season determined to anchor Gallo at first base, but injuries scuttled that plan early. Gallo has just 29 starts at first base as opposed to 84 in the outfield, including 67 in left and 13 in right. Ronald Guzman's arrival has also lessened the need for Gallo to play first base, both now, and possibly next season.
If the Rangers are committed to Guzman, then Gallo would be back in the outfield next year at one of the corner spots. But the Rangers will have Willie Calhoun in the picture next year, along with Mazara and Choo, when he is not being used at designated hitter. His situation will continue to depend on what happens with Beltre.
"It's hard to comment on what we want next year," Banister said. "I can only comment on where we are right now. Coming off an off-day, the hitter I want to get in the lineup, trying to keep some consistency with the number of off-days we have."
Finding a permanent defensive spot for Gallo has been an elusive goal for the Rangers. He has started 82 games at first, 80 at third base and 115 at one of the outfield spots in his young Major League career.
The best spot would seem to be the one that allows him to achieve his maximum potential on offense, but that has yet to be determined.
"Before we start saying that's there's too many positions on the field that take away from his offense, Joey is still growing as a player," Banister said. "Center field is the one spot that has a chance to beat a big body up over the course of a year. But there are number of big-body players who have played out in the outfield. Not only did they survive, but they played extremely well, not only center field, but right field or left."
From his standpoint, Gallo has been willing to play any position, although he appears no longer enamored with third base. He came to Spring Training determined to play first base, but has been willing to change on the fly.
"Still getting used to the outfield," Gallo said. "Honestly, I feel I'm improving week to week because I never played out there for a significant amount of time. I was always an infielder.
"It has been tough on my legs a little, but because I have never had to run that much ever, being as big as I was. Went to camp thinking I was going to play first. Never took a rep in the outfield, then it was like, 'You're going to play full-time outfield.' It was like, hopefully my legs can handle it. I'm young and athletic, I can make it work."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.