Gallo left impression in injury-shortened season

October 24th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- was an All-Star in the first half of the season and missing in action for much of the second half.

Gallo and the Rangers have a right to wonder what his final numbers would have been had he stayed healthy for a full season. Still, it is fair to say that 2019 constitutes a breakthrough season for Gallo, given that he hit .253 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .598 slugging percentage.

His .986 OPS would have been the fourth-best mark in the American League if he had finished with enough plate appearances to qualify. Instead, he played in just 70 games and still finished with 22 home runs and 49 RBIs.

“I think there were highs and lows,” Gallo said. “When I was on the field, I felt the best I have ever been in my career. That was really encouraging for me. Obviously, I wish I had gotten to play more. This is the first time in my career I missed significant time because of injuries. It’s part of the game. But I was happy with the steps I took and the player I started to become, not only offensively but defensively.”

Gallo was placed on the injured list twice last season. He missed much of June with a left oblique strain and didn’t play after July 23 as a result of surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. He tried to come back in September, but the wrist never felt quite right.

“I didn’t want to come back and start creating bad habits again,” Gallo said. “That was one of the big things. I felt so good this year swinging. If I come back and can’t swing the same way, then you go into the off-season and create some bad habit. … You never know where it goes from there.”

The challenge for Gallo next season is to return to the level he was at before the injuries and not let the extended layoff affect him.

“He hasn’t lost any sight of that,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I don’t think it’s going to negatively affect him. He should be fresh going into next year. Obviously, he is going to need Spring Training from a standpoint [of seeing pitching]. But I told him this off-season, ‘We’ve got to get in there, once you start really swinging, you’ve got to simulate some at-bats.’ We can do that for him. He should be ready, fully healthy and ready to roll.

“He was disappointed because he hasn’t played as many games as he wanted. But I told him, ‘Set your sights on whether it’s 150 games, go out there and expect to play that many games.’ This off-season is important, getting ready for next year is important.”

What went right
Rangers hitting coaches Luis Ortiz and Callix Crabbe spent much time with Gallo working on his swing. They preached the need to control the strike zone and swing at his pitch rather than chasing.

Gallo surely heard all this before. Previous hitting coaches almost certainly worked with him on cutting down his strikeouts. But Gallo undeniably made significant progress this season.

“He understands how to be there, and he’s committed to it,” Woodward said. “It kind of brings a smile to my face every time I hear him giving an interview and he is talking about controlling the strike zone and getting his pitch to hit. If he can do those things, it’s going to create a much better version of himself. Can he get better? Yeah. He wants to get better.”

What went wrong
Obviously the injuries were a major factor. But Gallo also struck out 114 times in less than half a season. There is still work to be done in that area.

“I want to get healthy and continue to do what I have been doing every off-season,” Gallo said. “Keep growing as a player, working on my swing, working on my approach, my athleticism. The first thing is getting my hand back to 100 percent. It’s starting to get there.”

2020 outlook
The Rangers are crowded in the outfield with Gallo competing with , , and for playing time. While it’s unclear how it will all shake out, it’s a safe bet that Gallo is the leading candidate of the bunch to be a big part of the Rangers lineup next season.

“He wants to win, “Woodward said. “I’ve said it to all our players, we have no intent but to win. Our only goal is to come in next year and win a championship. Just like this year, we had things to figure out. But next year we are going pretty heavy in wanting to win, and he’s got to be a big part of that for us to have a chance.”