Red Sox employ loophole to MLB shift ban against Joey Gallo

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When MLB announced it was banning the switch as we know it in 2023, probably no player benefited more than Joey Gallo.

The left-handed batsman has faced all sorts of changes over the years due to his batting makeup of being a power hitter and striking out very often. Typically, one of the outfielders would move to shallow right field, while there would be no one to fill the usual third base spot whenever Gallo approached the plate, making it difficult for him to reach base via a hit .

So the MLB rule that each team must have two outfielders on each side of second base was welcome news to Gallo.

However, Gallo encountered an unfortunate but somewhat typical sight in the Minnesota Twins’ spring training game against the Red Sox on Friday. The Red Sox found a loophole in the new rules, moving center fielder Adam Duvall to shallow right field and left fielder Ramiel Tapia to center field.

The changeup the Red Sox deployed was very similar to what Gallo has faced over the past few seasons. The only difference was that instead of third base being open, left field was left unoccupied.

Gallo got the Red Sox going, albeit in his second at-bat, with a walk to nullify Boston’s turnover. He flied out to center field in his other at-bat in Friday’s game.

Prior to the 2023 fielding ban, Gallo was a leading proponent of banning it.

“I understand the defensive strategies. Yeah. I’m not 100 percent against it. … But I think at some point, you’ve got to fix the game a little bit,” Gallo told The Athletic in February 2022. “I don’t understand . how am I supposed to hit a double or a triple when I’ve got six guys on the field.”

Gallo has struggled to get on base when he hits the ball in play. He has a .236 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) over the past three seasons, which is the fifth-lowest BABIP among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances over that span, according to FanGraphs.

Last season was especially tough for Gallo. He hit .160 and posted a .280 on-base percentage, both career lows outside of a 17-game 2016 season. He also had a 39.8 strikeout rate, which was the worst of any player with at least 400 plate appearances, and he hit 19 home runs, the fewest he has hit in a season in which he has played at least 100 games .

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