As his time with the New York Yankees spiraled toward a dismal end, a slumping Joey Gallo couldn’t hide his dismay.
“I don’t go out in the streets,” he said in an interview with NJ.com this week. “I really don’t want to show my face too much around here.”
As a new chapter with the Dodgers began Wednesday, barely 24 hours after the 28-year-old slugger was dealt to Los Angeles in a deadline-day trade, a smiling Gallo couldn’t contain his excitement.
“I had a good idea that I was getting moved,” he said. “But then, I got the call and they said, ‘Hey, you’re going to LA.’ I was psyched.”
Before Tuesday, there’d been little for Gallo to celebrate this season.
In 82 games with the Yankees, he had a woeful .159 batting average and 106 strikeouts in 273 plate appearances. Even with 12 home runs, he had only 24 RBIs and a .621 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
When news surfaced of his acquisition by the Dodgers, who sent pitching prospect Clayton Beeter in return, it didn’t exactly capture the imagination of a fan base that had been dreaming of Juan Soto.
For Gallo, however, the change of scenery was a sigh of relief.
“My time in New York didn’t go as well as I wanted it to,” he said. “It’s nice to start over.”
After beginning his career with the Texas Rangers, where he was a two-time All-Star and one of the sport’s most prolific left-handed sluggers with back-to-back 40-home run seasons in 2017 and 2018, Gallo’s tenure in New York was indeed a disaster.
He was traded there at the deadline last year and immediately struggled, batting just .160 down the stretch and going 0 for 4 in the team’s wild-card playoff loss to the Boston Red Sox.
When his production cratered again this season, the Yankees fan base began to turn on him.
He was booed at the ballpark. He stopped going out in public near his home in Manhattan.
In interviews, such as the one he gave Monday, he opened up about the toll it was all taking on him.
“Pretty much every team we play, players from that team reached out to me to say, ‘Hey, bro, keep your head up. Don’t listen to them,’ ” he told NJ.com before the trade, adding: “It makes me feel like a piece of s–t, honestly.”
But while speaking with reporters at Oracle Park before the Dodgers’ game against the Giants on Wednesday — he wasn’t in the lineup as he’s still getting “up to speed” with his new club — Gallo seemed much more at ease.
His beard was back, after adhering to the Yankees’ facial hair policy for the last year.
He was encouraged by his initial conversations with manager Dave Roberts and other members of the club’s staff, who have ideas on how Gallo can rediscover his old form.
He was happy to not only come to a contending team, but one where he already has several friends in the clubhouse in Gavin Lux, Hanser Alberto and Cody Bellinger.
“[His talent] is in there, it’s not gone,” said Bellinger, who met Gallo through their mutual agent, Scott Boras. “He’s a gifted athlete, man. Can hit for power, great defense, really good dude as well. So I know I’m excited to have him in the clubhouse.”
Most of all, Gallo was looking forward to getting a fresh start with the Dodgers, who are hopeful he will be a bargain deadline addition capable of adding length and versatility to their lineup, probably as a platoon player with plus-defense in left field.
“We feel there’s some real potential upside,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “A year ago today, his industry value was significantly higher, and that same true talent level is still in place.”
Gallo’s skill set has also been among the game’s most distinctive.
A 6-foot-5, 250-pound slugger who also has two Gold Glove awards in the outfield, he is the king of the three true outcomes at the plate: Since his first full season in 2017, he is 13th in the majors in home runs, 12th in walks and first in strikeouts.
“I’m a strange player, a unique player, I guess,” he said. “But a player that can help a team win. I know that.”
He was less certain of why he struggled so much in New York.
“Baseball is a tough game,” he said. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. You try to start doing different things. And once you struggle, especially in a place like that, you start to feel it a little more. You try to do too much. And sometimes that can get in your way.”
Roberts said he had a simple request for Gallo on his first day: “Just to kind of embrace this new opportunity, fresh start.”
Gallo already appeared to be doing so — flashing a thumbs-up to a young fan pregame who asked how he was liking the Dodgers so far.
“Obviously I want to get back to being a threat at the plate again and doing damage,” Gallo said. “I think I learned a lot about myself in growing through those struggles. I want to be a good hitter, though. I definitely need to hit a little bit better.”
Blake Treinen (shoulder) threw a simulated game Wednesday and, depending on how he feels in the coming days, could be on the verge of beginning a rehabilitation assignment, according to Roberts. … Brusdar Graterol (shoulder) touched 100 mph in a bullpen session Wednesday, Roberts said, and is “very close” to facing hitters.