KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In blunt terms, they think they can fix him.
One of the biggest power threats in baseball for a few years — albeit one with tremendous strikeout totals and low batting average — Joey Gallo lost his way in New York. In his year with the Yankees, the slugger hit .159, prompting them to discard him at the trade deadline.
The Dodgers acquired him confident the “fresh start” and input from their hitting coaches could return Gallo to a better version of himself.
“I think Joey has a great approach,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Gallo joined the team at the trade deadline. “He understands which part of the zone he’s really good at. But the way his body is working, it doesn’t allow the mechanics to work the way they should be. I think in this particular case, it’s largely mechanical.”
Gallo has not undersold the mental relief he felt leaving New York for Los Angeles, joking about being able to live by the beach now for the same rent he paid for “a pretty small apartment” in New York City.
“Baseball is definitely a mental game,” Gallo said. “It’s nice to get a fresh start.”
That fresh start began with a lot of early batting practice and live at-bats against rehabbing relievers Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol.
“From the first day I got here, they said it wasn’t about immediate results. It’s about the process and getting back to the player I know I can be,” Gallo said.
The “largely mechanical” suggestions from the hitting coaches have focused on “getting a load back again a little bit and my direction towards the ball,” Gallo said. Video — from his All-Star seasons in Texas as well as the immediate feedback from those sim-game at-bats — has been a big part of that work.
“I knew I was kind of doing something in New York and something just wasn’t clicking or adding up consistently,” Gallo said. “That’s the key, trying to do it consistently and not lose that feel. I knew the way I was hitting in New York something was off. Then mentally you start trying to do too much. Then you’re trying to combat everything.
“They’ve done a good job of explaining things so far. It helps that I was in a good head space as well.”
The Dodgers are not asking him to rebuild his swing or re-invent himself as a hitter, Gallo said. It’s about rediscovering the player who hit 103 home runs for the Texas Rangers over three seasons (2017-19), making the American League All-Star team twice.
“It’s stuff that I’ve done before,” he said. “A baseball swing is very delicate, as crazy as that sounds. One move when a guy is throwing 100 mph can really get you off the ball and off your game. I’m just trying to get those mechanical things back to where they were when I was an All-Star with the Texas Rangers. Those swings I was taking there. So it’s nothing new. It’s just getting back to that and unlocking that again.”
The results have not been immediate. But Gallo did have three extra-base hits — a double and two home runs (though one was off a position player in Kansas City Saturday) — in his last three games before Sunday.
“We’re still getting there with Joey,” Roberts said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. I think right now we’re just trying to give him some leash and some runway to get some confidence.”
Right-hander Dustin May was scheduled to make his final rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City Sunday night. May is on track to return to the Dodgers on Saturday against the Miami Marlins. It will be his first big-league start since May 1, 2021 when he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow requiring Tommy John surgery.
Dodgers (LHP Julio Urias, 12-6, 2.49 ERA) at Brewers (RHP Freddy Peralta, 4-2, 4.37 ERA), Monday, 5:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM