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Minors | General | 7/14/2013

Bright Futures for Gallo, Giolito

Patrick Ebert     
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS – Joey Gallo certainly has a knack for hitting big home runs in the spotlight of big games with the entire nation, and farther, watching him.

Three years ago he crushed a 442-foot blast at Petco Park during the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic. That blast continues to be the 10
th longest blast hit at the home of the San Diego Padres, a shot that propelled Gallo to become the game's Most Valuable Player.

On Sunday Gallo followed suit during the Futures Game, drilling a pitch well out of the seating arena at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, that was estimated to travel 419-feet, for a two-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth inning. The shot put the U.S. team ahead for good, garnering Gallo MVP honors once again while bailing out his good friend and 2011 PG All-American teammate, Lucas Giolito.

In a game that is structured quite similar to the Classic, the Futures Game, as part of the All-Star Game festivities, is a collection of the best and brightest young prospects currently playing in the minor leagues. Gallo, Giolito and 11 other former Perfect Game All-Americans found themselves named to the game's initial rosters, divided up between players that hail from the United States and those from the rest of the World.

This is very similar as to the way the All-American game worked back then,” Giolito said prior to the game. “You know you come out you see a bunch of guys that are at the tippety-top of their levels, respectively, within their organizations. It's awesome just to be able to go out and talk to them about what they're going through and I hope to see them all in the majors some day.”

The time spent at the Classic, as well as on the travel circuit while in high school, has allowed Giolito, Gallo and fellow 2011 PG All-Americans and Futures Game participants Corey Seager and Jesse Winker to retain friendships they expect to carry well beyond their projected big-league careers.

We're great friends with everybody,” Gallo said, taking his round of batting practice just behind Winker. “I haven't even seen [Jesse] Winker in two years -- I haven't played against him, we've been in different leagues. It's good to see him out here, and playing against him and [Corey] Seager and all these guys.”

It should be noted that Gallo isn't particularly picky how and when he hits his home runs. He hit them at a record-breaking pace at national high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, Nev., and has already added 93 more to his resume just two years removed from his high school playing days.

At 20-years old Gallo is now at the Double-A level in the Texas Rangers organization after the club selected him in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft. He hit 22 home runs during his professional debut that summer and set a record in the Arizona Rookie League. He added 40 more during his first full season in 2013 and has 31 already so far this year.

While it doesn't seem as though life in professional baseball has provided much of a challenge for Gallo, he's quick to point out the adjustments that were needed to be made.

The toughest adjustment is just playing everyday,” Gallo said of life as a professional baseball player. “It's tough with 140 games in five months.

(As for) the hitting aspect, I try not to get too frustrated anymore. I think last year I had to make a lot of adjustments, and I'd get frustrated and change something automatically if I didn't have success with it, and I never really stuck with anything. This year I'm trusting what I did in the offseason and it's working so far.”

Giolito has also enjoyed a successful professional career so far after it got off to a rocky start.

After entering the spring of 2012 as one of, if not the, top-rated prospect of any draft-eligible player, Giolito was sidelined for much of the spring during his senior year at Harvard-Westlake High School. He had strained a ligament in his elbow that at the time was deemed to require rest, not surgery, to right itself.

Although he wasn't one of the very first players selected in the 2012 draft, the Washington Nationals believed in his talents and took him with the 16
th overall pick. After one appearance in the minors it was ultimately decided that Giolito would require Tommy John surgery to repair that strained elbow ligament, but fortunately it hasn't set back his progression to this point in his young career.

Obviously the surgery [stands out],” Giolito said of what has transpired since he started the 2011 PG All-American Classic for the West squad. “That long road I had to go through, going through the injury, getting drafted, having high hopes, getting the surgery, and then building it back up through physical therapy and the whole process.

But I'm kind of thankful for it, I learned a lot about myself and I learned what it is really to work hard and to dedicate yourself to something.”

Like Gallo, Giolito has had to recognize the adjustments needs to stay healthy and succeed at the professional level.

Yeah, I make sure that I take care of my arm, a lot better than I used to,” he said. “I do my bands, I stretch, I make sure I do all of my exercises, after I pitch [and] before I pitch. Overall I just have a discipline for what you're doing, have a plan and have a general schedule as to how you go about things.”

Success is something that has come naturally for both players for quite some time. Bishop Gorman, as noted, is a perennial national high school powerhouse, and finished the 2012 season -- Gallo's last in high school -- ranked No. 2 on Perfect Game's final ranking of the top 50 teams. Harvard-Westlake, led by yet another 2011 PG All-American in Giolito's absence, lefthander Max Fried, finished close behind at No. 14.

It was huge,” Gallo said of his time spent at Bishop Gorman. “We kind of got used to winning and have a winning attitude. Even in rookie ball we wanted to win; in Low A you want to win and Double-A you want to win.

I've had that feeling ever since high school because we were pressured to win, we had to win, we were the team [to beat]. I think it helped me out a lot going to a school like that; playing good competition. It kind of got me ready for professional baseball.”

Although Giolito is being brought along more patiently, he too has seen his talents translate well to professional baseball. Currently playing in the South Atlantic League (Low A), Giolito has gone 6-3 with a 2.33 ERA in 26 professional appearances, all starts. In just over 104 innings of work he has allowed only 77 hits and 38 walks while striking out 112.

And like Gallo, the best has yet to come.

Next step for me is go out here and hopefully have a good inning and just keep grinding out throughout the rest of the season,” Giolito said with a smile prior to game time.

Giolito's comment seemed to serve as foreshadowing on his performance, and although he pitched well, mixing in his usual mid-90s heat with his sharp low-80s breaking ball, he did hang one such pitch that another top prospect and former PG All-American, Javier Baez, didn't miss.

Baez drilled that curveball to the opposite field well over the fence for a two-run home run, which put the World team on top at the time 2-1.
Handling pressure so many times at a young age makes it easier to adjust when the spotlight continues to be thrust upon you. And Gallo came up big-time for his teammate and close friend. In the bottom of the sixth, with yet another former PG All-American, J.P. Crawford, on first base, Gallo crushed a 95 mph fastball out of the hand of World righthander Michael Feliz on a 2-0 count.

As noted above, yet another big home run in a big-league ballpark meant more MVP hardware for Gallo. It won't be long until he'll be doing the same at a ballpark near you.

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