Twins

Joey Gallo Is Minnesota's Reluctant Hero

Photo Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Gallo hasn’t played for the New York Yankees on July 30, before they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still, the New York media continues to savage him. Gallo went on the injured list with an intercostal strain before the Minnesota Twins left for the Bronx on April 11, and NJ.com didn’t buy that it was a genuine rehab assignment.

For days, the Twins insisted Gallo’s right intercostal strain is nothing serious, that they were being extra cautious and he simply was being given a week (or so) to fully heal. But on Tuesday, they decided to put Gallo on the 10-day Injury List (retroactive to April 8) — just as the Twins headed to New York for a weekend series against the Yankees.

Gallo hit .159 over 82 games with the Yankees and was booed mercilessly last season before being traded to the Dodgers. Sounds like the Twins were protecting his abdomen and ego — and his bat from Gerrit Cole.

The Twins split the series at Yankee Stadium, then won two of three at home to take the season series from the Bronx Bombers for the first time since 2001. However, Gallo was playing for Triple-A St. Paul when Minnesota was on the road. He racked up three strikeouts in one of the games – something that wasn’t lost on NJ.com.

Y​​ou can’t fool Yankees fans. They know if Gallo’s minor-league team struck out 17 times, he likely helped, and if you don’t have the words “Joey Gallo” and “strikeout” in the same sentence, your reporting is probably incomplete.

However, Gallo was hitting .278/.350/.833 before hitting the injured list, and hit .375/.444/1.250 with two homers in Minnesota’s three-game home series against the Yankees. Recently, Rocco Baldelli has installed Gallo as his leadoff hitter to get the lineup going. The Twins have an expensive, potent lineup. But they lacked a leadoff man after they traded Luis Arraez in the offseason.

Enter Gallo, who hit leadoff for the first time in his career on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Gallo homered in back-to-back wins over the Cubs, igniting a dormant lineup. Gallo uncorked the lineup Baldelli shook up. The result? An 11-1 win on Saturday, a 16-3 win on Sunday, and a 9-8 extra-innings loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. Gallo has a 1.000 OPS entering Tuesday’s game in LA. He’s gotta love that Baldelli is letting him bat first, right?

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Gallo said before Monday’s game, “but I don’t want to.”

Excuse me? Come again.

“It’s not what I’m used to,” said Gallo, “going up there and being the first guy to attack, to see what a pitcher’s doing. That’s what’s so different for me.”

Well, it doesn’t seem like Baldelli is changing things up anytime soon.

He’s obviously got the strength and the power, and he’s swinging the bat good right now. But he’ll also take some pitches and some walks. Sometimes just shaking the lineup up and seeing how some different skill sets kind of work together, is something we have to do. … If you like judging results by seeing a guy that’s hitting the ball real well and having great at-bats, he’s done a great job of it.

Gallo, 29, is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove-winner, a nine-year veteran in his prime. If he really wants to bat lower in the order, Baldelli will give in, right?

“He’ll be fine,” Baldelli said. “His thoughts are always welcome. But right now, they’re not going to be taken into account.”

Alrighty, then.

Not all superheroes wear capes, but most want to be superheroes. Then again, can you blame Gallo for dismissing the bat signal? Who can blame him for not wanting to save Gotham? But perhaps he’ll acquiesce in Minnesota. Who doesn’t want to help a plucky underdog like the Twins? He’d be a hero for helping them win a playoff game, let alone a series. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Furthermore, he’d fit in with the current team. Carlos Correa is the reformed Jedi Knight who dabbled in the dark arts with the Houston Astros but has seen the light. Byron Buxton is The Flash, capable of breaking the sound barrier going first to third. Nick Gordon is the son of Flash. Tom “Flash” Gordon, that is. The 21-year veteran who was an All-Star pitcher at 36 and 38.

Gallo must embrace his calling as their leader, their leadoff man, to enable their superpowers. It’s the only way that the Twins can get their lineup going, and it’s the best way for him to get the New York media off his back. Gallo is probably going to be the leadoff man for a while, regardless of if he likes it or not.

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