MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Gallo learning the virtues of patience

Gallo learning the virtues of patience

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The express lane can be overrated.

That's what Joey Gallo has learned. So in his second trip to Spring Training with the Rangers, he's taking his time and paying a little more attention to the details.

You could say Gallo is shopping for some of the staples that will sustain him when he's not serving up the monstrous home runs that are the meat in his diet.

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"When you're in the Minors, you just think, 'I want to get there, I want to get there, I want to get there,'" Gallo said on Thursday. "Then you get there, and you kind of learn, 'OK, maybe I should have done some things different. Maybe I should have been more patient in A ball so I would be more ready.'"

At 22, Gallo has time on his side. He's currently blocked by perennial All-Star Adrian Beltre, giving him a window in which to do a little fine-tuning before his next big test.

"That's what this year is about for me," Gallo said. "I know I'm going down to Triple-A. I'll go down there and get as much as I possibly can, learn as much as I possibly can, so when I come up, I'll be ready to stay."

Rangers manager Jeff Banister doesn't doubt that for a minute.

Banister has been impressed both by Gallo's mature approach and the drives that have been screaming off his bat in the past week. The most notable of these was a blast on Tuesday that cleared the right-field berm at Surprise Stadium, crashing into the top of a party tent.

"I think the word [to describe it] might be majestic," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We'll probably see it on the way home."

Gallo singled in a pinch-hit at-bat in Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Brewers and is batting .364 with three homers in 28 plate appearances, but the most impressive thing to Banister is that he had six walks to balance out his six strikeouts.

Gallo's monster home run

"The biggest difference is how he started Spring Training, all his at-bats," Banister said. "He's really logging pitches in, seeing pitches. He wasn't as anxious to jump out and just swing. It was trying to get the foot down, get some rhythm, get some timing. That was pretty smart of him. He's a much more mature hitter than what we saw last Spring Training. It was, 'Get your three swings in and either hit one [over the fence] or go sit down.' This time, [I] don't want to say he's more selective, but he doesn't chase. He's kind of honored the strike zone better, and I think it's paid off for him the last three or four games."

Gallo has watched closely as his two Las Vegas friends, Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, have established themselves as young stars. He's a little younger than both of them, but he regularly played on youth teams with Bryant while marveling at Harper's talent.

"It was crazy to know the guy," Gallo said of Harper. "Ever since he was 8 years old, people knew he'd be the first pick overall. People were asking for his autograph when he was 9 years old. [Last] year, he was only 22 and won the MVP. People think he's 26 because he's been around so long. He could be in college still. It's pretty amazing what he's doing."

Scouts have long praised Gallo for having Giancarlo Stanton-type power -- an 80 on their 20-80 scale. He's hit 127 home runs in 383 Minor League games, with 40-homer seasons in both 2013 and '14.

But he was humbled when injuries to Beltre and Josh Hamilton allowed him to get 36 games in the Majors last season. He homered off Jeff Samardzija in his big league debut and off Clayton Kershaw a couple weeks later, but he wound up batting .204 with 57 strikeouts in 123 plate appearances.

"Last year I just came up and, you know, you're young and you want to do a lot, and I swung too much, I swung too hard," Gallo said. "I let pitchers do whatever they wanted with me. This year, I have a better sense of what they're going to do. I'm a lot more patient. I wait for my pitch, and if they don't throw it to me, then I'll take a walk down to first. That's going to be huge for me. Just having that and my timing. If I can do that, I'll be all right."

This is an interesting time for the Rangers. They won the American League West last season behind a core of veterans and are determined to try to reach the World Series for the third time in seven years. But they're also loaded with under-25 talent either already in Texas or at the doorstep, including 20-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara, whom Gallo calls "one of the best pure hitters I've seen."

Mazara, who is hitting .423 this spring, is likely to be joined at Triple-A Round Rock by Gallo, outfielder Lewis Brinson and shortstop Jurickson Profar, who was considered one of the best prospects in baseball before a stretch of injuries and diminished performance. Barring injuries or a zombie apocalypse, there's little chance for any of them to join 22-year-old second baseman Rougned Odor, who had 16 homers and 61 RBIs for the Rangers last season, in Banister's lineup until further notice.

The late signing of Ian Desmond to play left field filled the only immediate opening.

"We have a pretty good core group of guys," Banister said. "We like where they are. We also like those [young] guys a lot. We love the fact that they have come into Spring Training and done what they're capable of doing."

Gallo understands the situation. He figures that the impact that he and the other prospects can have will be worth the wait, as it has been for the Royals, the two-time defending AL champions and reigning World Series champs.

"We look at the Royals, and we want to be like that," Gallo said. "The kind of team that lets young guys get their feet wet at about the same time. They all come up together, make adjustments, learn and hopefully make runs in the future."

Gallo has played third base and shortstop his entire life. Though he played the outfield last year, he strongly considers himself a third baseman.

"Last year, I had to move around," Gallo said. "I was kind of filling a spot because of some injuries. I'm athletic enough, got a good enough arm, smart enough to move to the outfield. I thought I was decent out there, but I'm a third baseman. I'm an infielder. I want to be that as long as I can, until I'm forced to move.''

Beltre, who will be 37 in April, is eligible for free agency after the season. Although the Rangers want to re-sign him, talks have not produced an extension.

Banister promises that the Rangers will find a spot for Gallo when they feel he's completed his development.

"Where his long-term fit is is on the field," Banister said. "I think he's a good enough athlete to play third base. I think he's an exceptional athlete who could go play in the outfield and do it very well. Where you put him on the field, outside of shortstop and second base and behind the plate, I think he would adapt very well. Long term, on the field is where I'd put him."

Until then, you can find Gallo preparing himself for a long career. He might get in a hurry again at some point, but there's a calmness about him these days, and it's working for him.

Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.