ZEBULON — Anthony Gallas’ progression through the low minors is taking longer than either he or the Cleveland Indians’ organization had hoped.
But the 6-2, 210-pound corner outfielder out of Kent State isn’t spending his time complaining.
And apparently he doesn’t have any quit in him, because he’s making the most out of his fourth assignment to the Class A Carolina League.
Through May 18, Gallas was leading the Carolina Mudcats with a .338 batting average, six homers and 21 RBI in 38 games. His 17 doubles tied for the third most in Minor League Baseball’s 11 full-season leagues. He was second in the Carolina League in both slugging percentage at .579 and OPS at .968 behind Myrtle Beach’s Joey Gallo.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘hot,’” said Gallas, whose best minor-league season was in 2011 when he hit a combined .263 with eight homers and 42 RBI and spent part of it as a Kinston Indian. “I’m just being consistent, taking every day pitch-to-pitch. It sounds corny, but I really think that’s how you put up good numbers. I haven’t changed anything. I’m just healthy this year.”
And for any ballplayer, that makes a big difference.
In both 2011 and 2012 the Cleveland native had had short call-ups to his home state, playing in one game for Double-A Akron in 2011 and six for Triple-A Columbus in 2012.
But there was none of that last season. He played just 14 games, all for the Mudcats, and hit just .212.
“I wasn’t able to hit the outside pitch in 2012 because my right hip had a torn labrum,” said Gallas, who said he feels great now after having surgery on the hip last season. “I had never had an injury like that.
“I couldn’t stay back and drive the ball the other way. Now I’m able to stay gap-to-gap. That’s how I’ve always played, and I wasn’t able to do that the last two years.”
Gallas said he had even wondered if his career was over before the surgery. But early this season, everything is looking pretty rosy.
Sold on baseball
Joining the Cleveland organization was a no-brainer. Except for some pro baseball assignments, Gallas has spent his whole life in Ohio.
He could have left to play college football in another state, but passed on the opportunity.
“My main sport was football in high school,” he explained. “I played safety and wideout (at Strongsville High). Some MAC schools were offering me, and the biggest one was Iowa. But I thought I was too small to play linebacker and too slow to play in the secondary.
“I decided to play baseball. Scott Stricklin, the coach at Kent State, sold me. He said, ‘You’re going to go play professional baseball if you come here.’ And I said, ‘All right.’ I played all four years and got a degree in business management.”
A positive approach
A non-drafted free agent, Gallas had a fantastic 2010 senior season for the Golden Flashes before getting very small bonus offers from the Houston Astros and the Indians, his hometown team he had followed since he was old enough to know about them.
“It was tough not getting drafted,” he said. “I had hit .370 with 17 home runs and 81 RBI and I thought that’s as good as I could have possibly played. I knew I could hit.”
Gallas left Kent State as their career leader in RBI (224), walks (135) and total bases (509), tied for first in home runs (49) and second in runs (207).
“Coming into pro ball I’ve had a chip on my shoulder trying to prove I can play,” he said. “But the first-round picks have to do that, too. The best thing about baseball is you get a chance every day to do that. It’s a new day every day.”
Consistency paying off
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker said he’s happy Gallas decided to play baseball.
“Unfortunately with his injury last year, we would have assumed he’d be in Double-A by now not missing a year,” Tucker said. “But if he’s frustrated he isn’t showing it. It’s not like he’s showing he’s under pressure because he thinks his clock is running out.
“He’s been given an opportunity to play every day here, and he’s taking advantage of it.”
Tucker said Gallas is thriving under a less-is-more frame of mind.
“At one time he thought he had to be a home-run hitter, and I think he kind of forced the issue,” Tucker said. “Now, he is much more controlled and seems to have a much better plan when he gets in the box.
“He’s always been a consistent worker, very dedicated to his routine and discipline, and that’s paying off. He could easily have probably four more homers this year, but there are a lot of parks in this league with double walls.”
Mudcats hitting coach Tony Mansolino said Gallas’ steady mental state looks to be the main reason for his hitting success.
“He’s just relaxing a little bit, calming down and believing in himself, and I think it’s paying off,” Mansolino said. “Hitting for average isn’t something we look at so much internally; those are more fans’ numbers. But we look at guys who get on base and drive the ball.
“He’s kind of got the whole package. For him it’s being consistent and relaxing. A good doubles hitter is a guy who’s consistent with his approach.”
Keeping it coming
Gallas said he doesn’t set numbers goals for any season, but just wants to keep improving and impress the Tribe brass enough to keep climbing the ladder.
“It’s cool sometimes being the ‘old vet’ (at 26), but if you’re not getting it done it it can be ‘You can’t,’ and if you are, it’s ‘You should, because you’re older,’ ” Gallas said. “You just have to be the same guy at whatever level.”
He said he would love to have 20 home runs at the end of the year, but that he wants to avoid adding pressure to his game by bringing big numbers into the picture.
“I just say I want to have three or four good (home run) swings a month and that will be 20 home runs. If you break it down like that, it should be easier,” he said. “I want to try to be as consistent as I can with my routine. There are only a couple of centimeters’ difference between hitting a home run and a pop-up.”