Gallo reunites with childhood friend Bryant 

Rangers to split catching duties; Gomez seeks improvement vs. lefties

March 30th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Cubs-Rangers series marks the first Major League meeting between and . The two sluggers were childhood friends growing up in Las Vegas.

“Yeah, it’s crazy to see him out there,” Gallo said. “His family is here. My family is here. Our families grew up together so it’s cool seeing us on the field when we were 5-6-7 years old to in the big leagues playing on Opening Day against each other. It’s pretty crazy.”

Bryant is 22 months older than Gallo. He went to Bonanza High School and graduated in 2010 while Gallo went to Bishop Gorman and was drafted by the Rangers in 2012. Bryant was drafted in 2013 out of the University of San Diego.

Both their fathers – Mike Bryant and Tony Gallo – were active as close friends and youth baseball coaches in the Las Vegas area. Their sons first connected as professionals when they represented the United States in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game in Minneapolis.

“I’m proud as hell of him,” Gallo said. “He’s put in a lot of work. I’ve seen him since he was a little kid and now he’s a grown man who’s an MVP. I’m really proud of him for that.”

Splitting the catchers

was the Rangers starting catcher Saturday after got the Opening Day assignment. Manager Chris Woodward and bench coach Don Wakamatsu have given much thought to how to split up the catching duties and one decision is not to have either catcher go more than two days in a row.

The other factor is what’s more important: who is pitching for the Rangers or who is on the mound for the other team. But Woodward also doesn’t want his pitchers to develop a favorite catcher they want behind the plate exclusively. Mathis was with the D-backs last season and was behind the plate of all 33 of Zack Greinke’s starts.

“I definitely try to map it out a week ahead,” Woodward said. “Things will change. You look at the pitching, who lines up with what pitcher from an offensive standpoint … when it comes to catching, does it matter more who they are catching or from the offensive standpoint, who has got a better chance to hit? There are a lot of factors, but I am trying to let them know ahead of time so they have an idea, so they can game-plan with that pitcher.”

Cutting difference for Gomez

Rangers right-handed reliever struck out Kyle Schwarber -- a left-handed hitter -- for his only out on Opening Day. The strikeout was significant because Gomez has always had trouble against left-handed hitters. They hit a combined .378 off him the past two years and .287 when he saved 37 games for the Phillies in 2016.

The Rangers hope the difference this season is the cut fastball that Gomez has developed. That pitch bores inside against left-handed hitters and keeps them off his sinker and changeup. Both pitches fade away to left-handers and they were cheating out over the plate. He also added a curveball to get more swing-and-miss, and both showed up late last season with the White Sox when he struck out 22 batters in his last 15 2/3 innings.

“That just opens up the rest of the plate for me and gives me a little more room,” Gomez said. “This is a new start for me. I just want to be healthy and execute my pitches.”

Rangers beat:

• Rangers relievers Kyle Bird and Kyle Dowdy both made their Major League debut on Thursday. It’s the first time in club history two pitchers have debuted in the Rangers' season opener.

• Sunday’s game is starting at 3:05 p.m. That is an hour later than normal for the Rangers on Sunday because it is part of an ESPN national doubleheader.

• Elvis Andrus’ home run on Thursday was only the third by a Rangers shortstop on Opening Day. The others were Alex Rodriguez in 2003 and Michael Young in 2008.