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Gallo enjoys gift of confidence this winter

Young Rangers slugger speaks of a different mentality, knowing he belongs entering 2018
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Rangers infielder Joey Gallo had many big moments in 2017. The one he remembers most is a walk-off three-run homer against the Athletics at Globe Life Park.

The date was May 12 and Gallo entered the game hitting .200 with 54 strikeouts in 115 at-bats. He was in the big leagues only because Adrian Beltre was on the disabled list, and it seemed to be a day-to-day proposition.

ARLINGTON -- Rangers infielder Joey Gallo had many big moments in 2017. The one he remembers most is a walk-off three-run homer against the Athletics at Globe Life Park.

The date was May 12 and Gallo entered the game hitting .200 with 54 strikeouts in 115 at-bats. He was in the big leagues only because Adrian Beltre was on the disabled list, and it seemed to be a day-to-day proposition.

"Probably the best moment ... because I still wasn't sure if I was going to be up here for the whole year," Gallo said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to get moved down or what. To help the team in that fashion was huge for the team and huge for my confidence."

Video: OAK@TEX: Gallo crushes a walk-off three-run homer

The home run came just as the Texas weather was warming up. Now it is the cool of winter and Gallo is able to sit back and relax. His first full season in the Major Leagues is over and he can enjoy the memories while eagerly awaiting Spring Training.

The best thing about the holiday season for Gallo is that he finally understands he belongs in the big leagues and is brimming with confidence that it is only going to get better. Old doubts fade from view after he led the Rangers with 41 home runs, the third most in the American League.

Video: Best Rangers Statcast™ moments of 2017

"Last year I came into the season and Spring Training thinking hopefully I can find a way to make the team, hopefully I can get some at-bats in the big leagues," Gallo said. "This year I feel I am a key component on the team. I'm focused on winning and focused on the team more than just myself and improving individually. Now I want the team to improve.

"Not that I didn't in the past, but I didn't even know if I was going to be a part of the team. So now that I know, I'm excited and ready to get back on pace and do what the [World Series champion] Astros did this year. I want that to be us."

There is still the unknown about what position Gallo will be playing, a question the Rangers aren't eager to decide just yet. There will also be plenty of time in Spring Training for the obligatory questions and answers about cutting down the strikeouts or hitting to the opposite field.

Video: Gallo's defensive flexibility gives Rangers options

They are all on-field factors that matter during the course of a 162-game season. But what matters most for Gallo this winter is his positive frame of mind.

"I'm really excited about it," Gallo said. "I'm really excited for Spring Training to start, and I'm usually not. But after watching the postseason, I'm like, 'Let's get going.' I want this team back on the field and see what we can do. Let's have a fresh start. It will be 'game on.'

"It's more for me mentally. I have always prided myself on being in the best shape physically, even when I was in rookie ball. To me it's more mental, thinking about the game and the team and the upcoming season in a different way than I have in the past. I think that will have a benefit not only to me, but to the team as well."

Gallo lives in Las Vegas in the offseason. It his hometown, and it just happens to be the birthplace of 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant and the '15 winner, Bryce Harper. Las Vegas can shrink considerably once you get away from the entertainment meccas and the local boys all know each other. They grew up playing in the same leagues and working out in many of the same gyms.

Tweet from @JoeyGallo24: Promoting the city of Las Vegas with @sportsnet thank you to topgolflasvegas for having us��� https://t.co/RcZL0F2lBf

They are all friends, but now Gallo can stand a little taller among the local Vegas superstars.

"They still get to do a lot cooler stuff than I get to do, which is fine," Gallo said. "I don't care about all that. It's nice to be around Bryce and I can tell him I hit more home runs than him -- even if he played only a half a year.

"I don't think it was like they were looking at me like, 'He was a Minor Leaguer.' They always knew the potential I had growing up with them. I always felt I was just as good as them. But personally to be around those guys, it feels like I belong more because I did have some success in the big leagues. Now it's about keeping that level of success."

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.

Texas Rangers, Joey Gallo