At 36-31, the Rangers unexpectedly hold a two-game lead on an American League wild-card spot. Some of their recent success has come without injured outfielders Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun, though both players are progressing toward returns, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reports (links: 1, 2). Meanwhile, injured reliever Matt Bush is close to rejoining the Rangers’ bullpen, according to Wilson.
Gallo, who suffered a left oblique strain June 1, could be back when the Rangers open a six-game road trip June 25, per Wilson. Given the nature of oblique injuries, a three-plus-week absence wouldn’t be a terrible outcome for Gallo or the Rangers. Nevertheless, the injury has temporarily derailed an MVP-caliber start for the 25-year-old Gallo, who was amid a career-best season when he landed on the shelf.
Gallo entered 2019 off back-to-back 40-home run campaigns, though his high-strikeout, low-batting average ways helped limit him to 2.8 fWAR in each of those years. So far this season, though, Gallo has already totaled 3.3 fWAR in 214 plate appearances. While his strikeouts continue to pile up, he has still slashed .276/.421/.653 (170 wRC+) with 17 homers. Along the way, Gallo has significantly increased his walk rate (19.1 percent, compared to 13.4 from 2015-18). Further backing up his bottom-line results, Gallo ranks first in the majors in average exit velocity (96.3) and fourth in expected weighted on-base average (.442), according to Statcast.
Along with demonstrating his offensive prowess, Gallo has been a major asset in the field, having logged six Defensive Runs Saved between left and center. Needless to say, Gallo’s return will be great news for Texas, whose lineup has unsurprisingly lost some bite without him.
While Calhoun’s no Gallo (not yet, at least), he also came out of the gates well before his IL stint. Calhoun has been down May 22 with a strained left quad, but he could return as early as this Monday, Wilson writes. The former top prospect, 24, raked at the Triple-A level at the start of the year before the Rangers recalled him in mid-May. Thanks to his stint in the minors and his injury, Calhoun has picked up just 24 PA in the majors this year. But his .435/.458/.739 line and two HRs are welcome signs for a young player who fell flat with Texas and its Triple-A team last season.
As for Bush, he hasn’t taken a big league field at all since undergoing surgery on a partial UCL tear in his right elbow last September. However, the 33-year-old could be back in the majors before the month’s out. Bush struggled mightily during his injury-shortened 2018, but he was a useful part of the Rangers’ bullpen in the two previous years. During his three-year, 137-inning Rangers tenure, Bush has pitched to a 3.35 ERA/3.65 FIP with 9.07 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9.