DETROIT -- Joey Gallo joked with reporters on Tuesday afternoon before the Rangers’ series-opening 5-3 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park that he wasn’t sure if his teammates would welcome him back from the injured list, given how well they’ve played in his absence.
It didn’t take long for Gallo to remind everyone just how valuable he can be.
Gallo, who was activated from the 10-day IL on Tuesday after missing the previous 22 games with a left oblique strain, went 1-for-4 with an RBI double in support of Jesse Chavez, who struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one unearned run to get the win in his first traditional start.
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After winning just five of their first 20 road games, the Rangers have now won 10 of their last 16. They were 13-9 with Gallo sidelined.
“Winning is the biggest thing, and to feel like I helped this team a little bit is pretty nice,” said Gallo, who hit fifth and struck out three times while playing a full nine innings in center field.
Gallo, a finalist for the 2019 Google MLB All-Star Starters Election, drew a walk in his first at-bat, and he showed no signs of discomfort at the plate or in the field. He wasn’t tested heavily on defense, but he took solid routes and was quick on his feet on the balls hit his way.
“I tested it pretty good when I was rehabbing,” said Gallo, when asked if he had any concerns that he may reaggravate his oblique. “I know my limits.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward met with Gallo prior to Tuesday night’s game, and both men acknowledged that it was important for Gallo to play in the field to maintain a level of comfort.
“If Delino [DeShields] is not playing, I’d rather Joey maintain his comfort of playing in center field,” Woodward said. “I want him to be comfortable out there. I just don’t think it’s fair if I play him out there once a week. It’s too hard of a position to just throw him out there once a week.”
Gallo was appreciative of Woodward's support, and he made it abundantly clear he had no interest in being tabbed as a designated hitter.
“I don’t want to DH, no matter what,” Gallo had said prior to the game. “I feel fine. I proved that I could play the outfield right now.”
And in Gallo's first game back, he proved that he can still swing a bat, too. He put his patented swing on full display in his second at-bat, plating Elvis Andrus with a line-drive double to deep right-center.
“I was thinking triple, but my legs didn't want me to go three," Gallo said.
That’s not to say that Gallo wasn’t rusty in his first game in nearly a month. It was the 11th time he’s struck out three or more times in a game this season.
“Even those at-bats, he was still controlling the strike zone,” Woodward said.
Gallo admitted he didn’t swing in his first at-bat because he couldn’t “see the ball.”
“It was different being up here. The first at-bat, I didn't even swing,” Gallo said. “I don't even think I saw the ball once. I started to get a little bit better throughout the game where I started seeing the ball better and getting used to the environment a little more.”
Gallo’s stint on the IL hampered a breakout campaign that had him in the American League Most Valuable Player Award conversation, and it could possibly hurt the Rangers’ chances of having their first All-Star Game starter since 2012, when Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli all received the honor.
“For that circumstance, it’s good that I was able to come back on the field again, because I know there was speculation that I wouldn’t be back for another month,” Gallo said. “But it’s good to come back a couple weeks ahead of [the All-Star Game], so if I happen to make it, I’ll be able to play in it.”
Despite a penchant for hitting long-distance home runs, Gallo was not extended an invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.
“I didn’t get invited, so that’s off the list, I don’t have to worry about that,” Gallo said. “But obviously if I’m in the All-Star Game, I’m going to want to play that. That’s a special thing.”
Gallo said he would have strongly considered participating in the Derby, but he acknowledged that he would have needed to take precautionary measures to prevent reaggravating his injury. That said, he has no intention of skipping out on the All-Star Game, should he be selected.
“I would much rather be an All-Star,” Gallo said. “Playing in a game, you maybe get one or two at-bats -- that's nothing. I would be more worried about doing the Home Run Derby than the All-Star game, for sure.”
The Starters Election begins at 11 a.m. CT Wednesday and runs 28 hours, ending at 3 p.m. CT Thursday. Voters will choose among the finalists to decide the starters for the American and National Leagues All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9. A finalist who doesn't win the Starters Election at their position is not automatically added to All-Star rosters.
Top vote-getters will be announced Thursday on Google MLB All-Star Election Night starting at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN. Pitchers and reserves will be announced at 4:30 p.m. CT June 30 on ESPN’s Google MLB All-Star Selection Show, also on ESPN.
Cabrera’s suspension reduced
Major League Baseball announced Monday that Asdrubal Cabrera’s four-game suspension for throwing equipment at an umpire last week was reduced to three games.
Cabrera will serve the suspension during the team’s series vs. the Tigers at Comerica Park starting Tuesday night, leaving the Rangers with a shorthanded bench. He will rejoin the team prior to the Friday night series opener vs. the Rays in St. Petersburg.
The suspension was issued following an on-field outburst Thursday in which Cabrera tossed his elbow guard and batting gloves onto the field after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes. The plastic elbow guard hit umpire Bill Miller in the shin, which prompted the suspension.
“You can’t do that, and he knows that,” Woodward said. “He apologized to me and the team about it.”
Woodward said he expected Cabrera to be issued a suspension, but he said a three-game suspension was “kind of harsh.”
“I think they were trying to maybe set a little bit of an example,” Woodward said. “I know it was wrong. It was wrong what he did. Everyone knows that. I’m not going to condone that behavior by any means, but four games seemed like a lot. I thought two games was probably more appropriate. But they’re going to make their decisions.
“I don’t think he had any intent to hurt anybody or physically hurt anybody,” Woodward said. “It seems a little bit harsh.”
• Hunter Pence, who is eligible to return from the 10-day injured list this week, isn’t expected to rejoin the team until after the series in St. Petersburg. Pence ran for the first time on Tuesday at 60-70 percent, according to Woodward. He has been cleared for light hitting in the batting cage, and he is expected to face live pitching on Wednesday.
• The Rangers announced two additional Draft signings on Tuesday: Right-handed pitcher Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa, who was drafted in the 30th round, and right-hander Nick Yoder, selected in the 34th round. Texas has now signed 19 of its 41 Draft picks.
• Rangers left-handed pitching prospect Brock Burke, who has been sidelined much of the year with a left shoulder issue, was activated from the IL at Double-A Frisco and has been assigned to Class A Hickory. Burke was acquired in the Jurickson Profar trade in December.