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Gallo could bunt to counter extreme shifts

Rangers slugger greeted with four-outfielder alignment by Astros
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- Rangers hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said Joey Gallo knows how to bunt. Iapoce also said Gallo could start doing it on occasion to combat some of the drastic defensive shifts teams have used against him.

"We have talked about it, especially if he bunts, it's a possible double," Iapoce said. "I think it's something he is really going to think about and work on. Whatever we need in the game is going to dictate that. He's such a good baserunner, he can steal a base if we need to, go first to third. It will help a team by just him getting on base and starting a rally."

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ARLINGTON -- Rangers hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said Joey Gallo knows how to bunt. Iapoce also said Gallo could start doing it on occasion to combat some of the drastic defensive shifts teams have used against him.

"We have talked about it, especially if he bunts, it's a possible double," Iapoce said. "I think it's something he is really going to think about and work on. Whatever we need in the game is going to dictate that. He's such a good baserunner, he can steal a base if we need to, go first to third. It will help a team by just him getting on base and starting a rally."

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The Astros used an extreme defensive alignment against Gallo on Opening Day. Manager AJ Hinch sent third baseman Alex Bregman to left to give the Astros four outfielders. He also moved his three infielders to the right of second base, leaving the left side wide open.

Gallo also batted four times with nobody on base. Having baserunners will also cut down the way opponents shift on Gallo.

"He has always worked on it, he's a really good bunter actually," Iapoce said. "When we do bunting drills or bunting games, he's one of the better guys. He's just a baseball guy. But if you have never done it in games for hits, it can be -- not like scary -- but not trustful in your approach. If he is able to get it down in games, it builds some confidence and he'll be able to do it."

Elvis Andrus said it's the first time he has ever seen a four-outfielder alignment.

"I hope and I wish they play me like that too," Andrus said. "It'd be really nice."

Eyes on Kela the closer
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said there are three factors he will watch closely with Keone Kela as his closer. Banister wants to make sure Kela stays healthy, does not get overworked and is available as much as possible. The Rangers will use Kevin Jepsen as a backup closer so Kela doesn't need to be forced into three straight games.

"His temperament has been good," Banister said. "Just doing it consistently, we haven't seen that. He hasn't had consistent opportunities. But he has enough bulldog in him to handle the situation."

Video: Kela discusses being named the Rangers' closer

Kela said he is excited about the chance to close, but doesn't think the label is necessary.

"It's all of of our jobs to go out there whether it's the sixth inning, seventh, eighth or ninth," Kela said. "Everybody is capable of going out there and closing. We have multiple guys who have done it before. There is no perfect rhyme or reason to get it done. I know [Banister] is going to put us out there in the best position to win and do the job. Whether I pitch in the ninth or come in the eighth, I'm ready to do my job."

Rangers assigned bonus pools
The Rangers have been assigned a bonus pool of $7,356,000 for the MLB Draft in June. The Rangers have the 15th overall pick in the Draft, and the assigned value is $3,738,500.

Each pick in the first 10 rounds of the Draft has an assigned value, and the total for each of a club's selections equals what it can spend in those rounds without incurring a penalty. Any bonus money above $125,000 given to an individual player picked in Rounds 11-40 also counts against a team's allotment.

The Rangers have also been allotted an international bonus pool of $4,983,500 for the signing period that begins July 2. Clubs can acquire additional pool money through trades, and the Rangers have been aggressive in doing that the past few years.

Rangers beat
Tim Lincecum, who is on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger, has started playing catch again without any issues. The next step will be to resume throwing off the mound. His goal is to be an option for the Rangers by the beginning of May.

• The Rangers had the most foreign-born players on their Opening Day roster of any Major League team. The Rangers had 11 players from five countries outside the United States, including Andrus, Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Tocci (Venezuela), Adrian Beltre, Jose Leclerc and Nomar Mazara (Dominican Republic) and Alex Claudio and Juan Centeno (Puerto Rico). In addition, Shin-Soo Choo is from South Korea and Jurickson Profar is from Curacao.

• The Rangers' game against the Mariners in Seattle on May 16 has been selected for exclusive distribution on Facebook Watch in the United States via the MLB Live show Page. It will not be broadcast locally by either the Rangers or Mariners. The game will also be available globally on the show Page, except select international markets.

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