These 3 Texas Rangers may have been ’2020-ed’ but aren’t using COVID-19 as an excuse

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jeff Wilson
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In the days since Texas Rangers opened spring training, the media has been granted time on Zoom with Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson, and Jordan Lyles’ name has surfaced in conferences with manager Chris Woodward.

None of the three players was very good last season, yet the expectation based on the glimpses during the offseason and in the beginning days of camp is that all three will be better in 2021.

Part of the heightened hope is also based on conducting a full spring training and a full 162-game regular season without a significant COVID-19 interruption.

Quick, somebody knock on wood.

Players throughout baseball struggled with the sudden end to spring training in 2020, the fend-for-themselves shutdown workouts and the three-week ramp-up before the season started in July.

So as the Rangers ready themselves for the season, they have juggled how to judge players who couldn’t get on track last season.

“Evaluating anybody on a 60-game season is really really difficult,” general manager Chris Young said. “I think we’ve all kind of put that out of mind. We rely on the track record. We know the people. We know the players. We expect, given the work they put in this offseason, they will bounce back.”

As another club official said of Gallo, “He got 2020-ed.” That would apply to Gibson and Lyles, as well, but how the trio performed can’t be dismissed.

They needed to discover why they were derailed and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Gallo said that he was standing too upright, eliminating his power, and had too much launch angle. Gibson said he struggled with two outs and runners on base. An adjustment Lyles made on his curveball backfired.

Lyles also spent the shutdown at his home in Colorado, where the weather was not conducive for a major-league pitcher to maintain his arm strength.

“For a guy who’s been in the big leagues a long time, he learned a lot from last year,” Woodward said. “He’s been willing to listen about some adjustments, tightening up the curveball, shortening it up. There’s a lot of little things that I feel like led to his failures at times.”

The mental side came into play, too.

Players can go through a 60-game swoon during a 162-game season and recover. It happens every season to many big-league players, Young said.

But if a player struggled early, he might have pressed to make adjustments that actually made things worse. On top of that, players couldn’t go out on the town to blow off some steam or clear their heads.

There was no access to in-game video, a tool that has become a necessity to most players.

It all had an effect. Gallo, who tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of summer camp, has admitted as much.

“It’s tough because it’s a 60-game season and you hear guys talking about it,” said Gallo, who batted only .181 with a .679 OPS. “And it’s like if you just don’t get off to a good start, you don’t have that longevity of 162 games to get into a rhythm and get hot and kind of boost those numbers up and get those wins.”

Gallo, along with Gibson (2-6, 5.35 ERA) and Lyles (1-6, 7.02 ERA), were able to make adjustments and felt better about things as the season wound down. Then, it was done and they didn’t have a chance to improve their numbers or just do better for an extended stretch.

Gibson finished with solid outings in two of his final three starts, a stretch that started with a four-hit shutout at Houston.

“I think it was after that start, it’s like, ‘Man, I wish I had 20 more,’” he said, “because I feel like I finally got to that point where I figured out my mechanics.”

Though there is such a thing as getting 2020-ed, those players didn’t use getting caught up in the shutdown and 60-game sprint as an excuse.

They don’t want to get 2021-ed.

Woodward has seen the adjustments all three made during the offseason.

“When we look at last year, our guys, we look at it and objectively and subjectively evaluate our guys and say, ‘Hey, what can we do better,’” Woodward said. “For our guys it’s not a wasted year. Whatever happened last year, we learn from it.”