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‘Pressing’ Joey Gallo Gives Aaron Boone Something to Think About

The slugger has hit a few big home runs for the Yankees, but his walk and strikeout rates—among other numbers—have gone in the wrong direction since being traded from the Rangers.

Joey Gallo’s recent stint as the Yankees’ No. 2 hitter has featured all the highs and lows—but mostly lows—that one would expect from baseball’s premier Three True Outcomes hitter.

Gallo batted second over the last four games, starting with New York’s series opener against the Orioles on Friday. He saw 18 plate appearances over that stretch, drawing three walks and striking out 10 times. He picked up one hit. Naturally, it was a home run.

That’s a minuscule sample, but it mirrors Gallo’s overall body of work since being traded from the Rangers. Gallo has always been a TTO player, and his defense, athleticism and left-handed presence alone have helped New York. But the good has not outweighed the bad since joining the Yankees. That wasn’t the case in Texas.

Just about every average or rate stat of note has gone in the wrong direction for Gallo, including his BB%, K%, power numbers and on-base metrics. Simply put, when it comes to the three outcomes, the worst one has been overwhelmingly prevalent. 

Joey Gallo's 2021 stats

Gallo’s struggles with New York were accentuated by a four-strikeout—and nothing else—day at the plate in Monday’s 8-0 loss to the Blue Jays. That gave him 61 strikeouts in 151 plate appearances since the trade. The Bombers’ offense is off once again, so Gallo is not the only one to blame for a lifeless defeat, but Aaron Boone is still talking about getting the slugger “comfortable" and “settled” 35 games into his Yankees career.

Granted, that itself is a small sample, but it’s harder to ignore Gallo’s woes when the whole team is no longer rolling and the calendar is several days into September. The inconsistent Yankees are clinging to a half-game lead in the wild card race, which makes it tough to let a floundering hitter like Gallo occupy the two-hole.

“It’s something I’ll consider,” Boone said when asked if he would move Gallo down in the order. The outfielder has also hit third, fourth and fifth for New York. Boone added that a day off could be on the table, but that could be more for rest with the Yankees amid a grueling stretch.

While those options are being considered, Boone said that he still likes what Gallo can bring to the table batting second.

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“His skillset sets up to be really dynamic in that spot with his ability to get on base and, obviously, the power,” Boone said. “But it’s fair to say he’s grinding right now and pressing to get something done and wanting to ingratiate himself here. I feel like he’s wearing that a little bit.”

That makes sense in theory given Gallo’s traits, but in reality he’s never hit well (.130/.211/.290) in his limited experience as a No. 2 hitter. Gallo  has generally fared better toward the middle of the order.

Of course, where he’s hitting doesn’t matter as much if his approach is off. Boone thinks it is lately.

Even when Gallo wasn’t producing early in his Yankees tenure, the manager felt that the pre-deadline acquisition was recognizing pitches and working at-bats. Over the “last few games,” however, Boone noticed Gallo “chasing the result a little bit” and “expanding more than he normally would.”

He’s trying to force something, to little avail.

Gallo wants “to get a hit instead of controlling that process of putting together a really good at-bat,” Boone said, “which is what is a calling card for him.

“Gotta make sure he continues to focus on that and not so much the result.”

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Follow Gary Phillips on Twitter (@GaryHPhillips). Be sure to bookmark Inside The Pinstripes and check back daily for news, analysis and more.