The Red Sox have found a loophole for MLB’s new shift rule. And Joey Gallo, whom Boston tested it against in a spring training game Friday, still needs to learn how to not pull the ball so much.
When Gallo — the former Yankees outfielder now with the Twins — strolled to the plate, the Red Sox positioned center fielder Adam Duvall in shallow right field and slid Raimel Tapia from left to center, according to the Bally Sports broadcast.
They kept their right fielder in his traditional spot, give or take a few steps.
And the Red Sox also ensured that they remained compliant with MLB’s new shift rules, which keeps two infielders on each side of second base and was intended to prevent teams from stacking their position players against lefties.
Until Boston discovered a way to maneuver around it.
The counter to this approach, though, is that if the left-handed hitting Gallo directed the ball the other way, the Red Sox wouldn’t have an outfielder to cover the left-field corner.
The closest person would’ve been Tapia in center field.
MLB’s shift change appeared to be a boost for lefties that pull the ball, like Gallo, but if teams start implementing Boston’s strategy — or others — and it works, that could change.
Gallo signed a one-year, $11 million deal with the Twins this offseason after a stretch where he was traded from the Yankees to the Dodgers but failed to string together consistent results with either team.
A former first-round pick in 2012, Gallo finished with the lowest batting average — across a full season with more than 17 games — of his career in 2022 at .160, and his home run numbers dropped from 38 to 19.
The struggles affected the slugger who was a coveted bat when the Yankees acquired him prior to the 2021 trade deadline.
“I think every baseball player at some point is like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this s–t anymore,’” he said in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “It’s a tough game.”
The Yankees proceeded to trade Gallo, who spent his first six-plus MLB seasons with the Rangers organization, to the Dodgers a year later for pitching prospect Clayton Beeter.
Gallo, though, only proceeded to hit slightly better with a .162 average and .671 OPS in his final 44 regular-season games and one postseason game.