GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nobody is measuring the distance or speed of his home runs right now, but Joey Gallo is still performing like Spring Training games count for something.A year removed from fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster, Gallo is now a presumptive regular at first base.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nobody is measuring the distance or speed of his home runs right now, but Joey Gallo is still performing like Spring Training games count for something.
A year removed from fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster, Gallo is now a presumptive regular at first base. But he acted like a guy whose fortunes depended on every spring at-bat in Friday's 9-4 loss to the Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.
His gargantuan homer to right-center off fellow lefty Andrew Miller, one of the top relievers in the American League, was the attention-grabbing moment of the day for Gallo. The ball traveled perhaps 440, 450 feet to the back of the grass berm in the outfield, where it landed violently outside the glove of an overmatched fan.
Gallo made a name for himself around the AL last season by lighting up Statcast™ with tape-measure homers and rocket-launcher exit velocities. With no such next-level analytics to consult in the Cactus League, it was hard to quantify exactly how hard and far Gallo's first homer of the spring went.
Suffice to say Gallo got good wood on the 1-2 pitch from Miller.
"I hit it pretty good," Gallo said. "Obviously, if I hit the ball on the barrel, it usually goes pretty far away. I didn't really see where it landed."
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Gallo's first at-bat, against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, also showed something about the 24-year-old slugger's competitive state of mind right now.
After he struck out looking to end the frame, Gallo did not leave the batter's box meekly, wincing and voicing his displeasure with home-plate umpire Nick Mahrley's call. Gallo didn't push things with Mahrley after saying his piece, but first-base coach Steve Buechele quickly intervened anyway to escort Gallo to the dugout.
There, manager Jeff Banister offered some calming words.
"Banny's like, 'Hey, it's Spring Training, you're fine,'" Gallo said. "And I forget, I feel like I'm still fighting for a job and I kind of have it now. I still go out there with a competitive edge. If I'm on the field, I want to play as hard as I can and perform. But it is nice to be able to have that leeway where I can work on things and not get punished for it or get sent down or get looked at a different way. It's pretty nice to just go out and relax and do my thing."
Gallo hit 41 homers in 145 games last year, batting .209. He does not consider himself preoccupied with stats, nor does he purport to having statistical targets in mind, but he's aware of the figures.
"Obviously, it'd be nice to hit for a higher average -- I'm always hearing about how my average sucks, so if that could stop, that'd be nice -- but I don't really go out and set goals in terms of where I want my average to be, or home runs," Gallo said. "I just go out and want to play and have good at-bats. I know if I do that, the numbers will be there."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.