The life of a Major League Baseball player certainly isn’t as easy as it was made to look Tuesday night, but hey, that’s nothing new for former Myrtle Beach Pelicans of late.
Slugging in Myrtle Beach as recently as 2014 before his mid-year call-up to the Frisco RoughRiders, Joey Gallo’s towering home run and four RBIs turned his MLB debut into a Rangers coming-out party.
“I definitely did not think this was going to happen the first game,” Gallo said, via The Associated Press, after setting a Rangers franchise record for RBIs in a debut. “I was just going to be happy to get on base the first game, so I definitely over-achieved my goals there.”
And he isn’t alone in doing so. Also a mid-season call-up to Frisco last season, former Pelicans pitcher Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez made his debut against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, May 30. The 6-foot-3 righty said he had jitters early on, but settled down to hold Boston hitless through his first five innings, allowing just two hits in 5 2/3 in an 8-0 victory for his first career win.
Even Boston’s star slugger David Ortiz gave the former Pelican a stamp of approval.
“He gave me a little clap, head nod, which was awesome,” Gonzalez said of Ortiz, via The Associated Press. “Just giving me respect, which I didn’t think – I’m a new guy, a rookie. It was awesome.”
While Gonzalez and Gallo have made the biggest splashes, they are joined with three other Pelicans who have made their MLB debuts this year (Texas reliever Keone Kela, infielder Hanser Alberto and fellow infielder Odubel Hererra, who now plays for the Philadelphia Phillies). Wilfredo Boscan could join that list soon, as he has been on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster since being called up May 16. They follow last year’s crop of call-ups, which includes infielders Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas (now with the Milwaukee Brewers), and reliever Alex Claudio, who all played for the Pelicans at some point in 2014.
In the past three seasons alone, 30 former Pelicans have made their way onto MLB rosters.
And the trend of players speeding up to the majors from Class A isn’t all that surprising, said Pelicans General Manager and Vice President Andy Milovich. It all comes down to the organization you are aligned with.
“[The Rangers] had one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in all of baseball the last few years,” Milovich said. “It had everything to do with the quality of their baseball team being the best in the business. I don't think it's a coincidence you've seen a bunch of great players come through here the past few years.”
In the offseason, Myrtle Beach switched affiliations to the Chicago Cubs, which Milovich said was the only team outside of the Rangers the Pelicans would have even considered. That doesn’t dampen the pride of seeing a player like Gonzalez burst onto the scene in his first start, or Gallo blast to the upper deck in his second MLB at-bat during a lopsided 15-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
“We had a great relationship with The Rangers. … We had great players and a great run for years with them,” Milovich said. “We're really proud of playing a role and allowing them to reach their big league potential.”
Gallo was called up to the Rangers on Monday to replace ailing third baseman Adrian Beltre, who dislocated his left thumb and is expected to miss three weeks. Texas General Manager Jon Daniels said Beltre will be back in the lineup when he’s healthy.
“He’s going to get his job back,” Daniels said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after Gallo’s call-up. “There’s not going to be any quarterback controversy.”
And while he’s getting just a taste of the majors, Gallo – who is coming off two consecutive 40-homer seasons in the minors – is surely making the most of his situation. The known timeframe for Beltre’s return clearly didn’t add pressure, or at least Gallo didn’t show it, going a triple shy of the cycle in his debut. He followed up with another home run Wednesday, but in a 1-for-4 showing with three strikeouts.
“Being around these guys, being in the clubhouse, the atmosphere, I think that helped more, obviously, making adjustments to the game,” Gallo told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I went back to Double A and played pretty well, so I feel as confident as I’ve been so far in my career.”
Meanwhile, Milovich said he had yet to see the highlights from Gallo’s debut, but recalled the 6-foot-5, 230-pound bomber as a player that you’d drop anything you were doing to watch his at-bat. And while Milovich had to settle for the reports he’d seen online, he had a few of his own memories at TicketReturn.com Field, where Gallo mashed 21 home runs and drove in 50 RBIs in just 58 games.
“I felt like he hit some pretty special home runs last year,” he said.
Contact MAX McKINNON at 626-0302 or on Twitter @mmckinnonTSN or JEFF NOWAK at 444-1767 or on Twitter @JNowakTSN
Road to the show
_Notable Pelicans who have
_made recent MLB debuts
▪ Nick Martinez: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2013, made Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Luis Sardinas: A shortstop for Pelicans in 2013, made Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Neil Ramirez: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2013, made Cubs debut in 2014
▪ Rougned Odor: An infielder for Pelicans in 2013, made Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Alexander Claudio: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2014, Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Tomas Telis: A catcher for Pelicans in 2012, made Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Erik Cordier: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2009 made Rangers debut in 2014
▪ Keone Kela: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers debut in 2015
▪ Odubel Hererra: An infielder for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers debut in 2015
▪ Wilfredo Boscan: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers debut in 2015
▪ Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez: A pitcher for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers debut in 2015
▪ Hanser Alberto: An infielder for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers debut in 2015
▪ Joey Gallo: A 3rd baseman for Pelicans in 2014, made Rangers
debut in 2015