Joey Gallo forges early relationship with Twins hitting coach
An all-star as recently as 2021, Gallo, 29, had the worst year of his career at the plate during a 2022 season split between the Yankees and Dodgers.
ST. PAUL -- Before Joey Gallo officially signed with the Minnesota Twins on Dec. 20 — and after, too — people around the game were reaching out to the outfielder and heaping praise on hitting coach David Popkins, the man who is tasked with helping Gallo engineer a rebound season.
Gallo’s agent, Scott Boras, was one who had nice words to share about Popkins. Shortstop Carlos Correa, he said, was another.
“We started talking on the phone a lot. I wanted to get a relationship with him,” Gallo said of the Twins hitting coach. “He wanted to kind of get a feel for my swing, what I could do differently.”
And so just weeks after signing, in the first week of January, Gallo left his offseason home in Dallas and ventured to San Diego, where the two spent three days working, learning about each other and building a relationship.
An all-star as recently as 2021, Gallo, 29, had the worst year of his career at the plate during a 2022 season split between the Yankees and Dodgers. Never one to hit for average — he is a career .199 hitter — that number cratered to .160 last season. His OPS+ dropped from 121 in 2021 (100 is league average), to 79 a year later. He struck out in 39.7% of his plate appearances.
But Gallo has hit 40 or more home runs in multiple seasons, and the Twins signed the Gold Glove outfielder to a one-year, $11 million deal with hopes that their hitting crew can help get the slugger back on track.
“The success leaves behind clues and you’re trying to pull out the things he’s done in the past that are (in) him and keep him understanding his identity,” Popkins said. “Sometimes we hitters get so focused (on) what we can’t do that you don’t really allow yourself to play to your strengths. It’s kind of getting back to who he is.
“He’s a very dangerous hitter. … The goal there is making him as dangerous as possible like he’s been throughout his entire career.”
Some of it, Popkins said, is introducing new ideas and tools. Some of it is building upon his existing foundation. In the short time they’ve worked together, Gallo has come to the same conclusion as those who reached out to him: Popkins, he said, is “very intelligent” when it comes to hitting.
When they’re not together — Gallo hit with Popkins last weekend during TwinsFest — they’ve been FaceTiming, and Gallo has sent over videos of his form for Popkins to assess.
“I think when you have a good relationship with your coach — and I already have a great relationship with him — it’s just like talking to a friend now,” Gallo said. “I think it makes it easier, and you can kind of bounce ideas off each other a little bit. … He knows his stuff and I’m getting excited to work with him. It’s been great so far. I’m excited to see what we can do together.”
2023 SPRING TRAINING
The Twins begin reporting to the team’s facility in Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training in less than two weeks. Here are some key dates:
- Feb. 15: Pitchers and catchers required to report
- Feb: 19: Position players required to report
- Feb. 20: First full-squad workout
- Feb. 25: First games, split squad vs. Tampa Bay and Baltimore
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